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Modular components and buildings

Buildings built from modular components, such as shipping containers, are an increasingly popular option for commercial and residential use.

​Modular components in buildings

Modular components are building elements that are prefabricated off-site and then shipped to the site where the building will be located. The components could arrive fully assembled, partially assembled or flatpacked (panelised).

A building could be constructed of more than one type of modular component.

We do not consider modular components to be an entire and substantially complete building transported whole, such as a three-bedroom home or an entire classroom. For building consent and documentation purposes, we refer to these as relocatable buildings.

However, a building made with modular components in Auckland can have a customised inspection process similar to a relocatable building. This may involve separate inspections for the factory where the components are created and the site where the building is constructed.

For more information on relocatable buildings, see Relocate a building.

Examples of modular components

  • Completed bathroom pods.
  • Internal or external wall panels.
  • Rooms made with shipping containers.

When fully assembled on-site, modular components become part of what amounts to a substantially complete building.

Examples of what is not a modular component

  • Kitset showers.
  • Flatpack or pre-assembled kitchen cabinets.
  • Flatpack garden sheds.
  • Spa pools and spa baths.

Fittings or non-structural features are generally not considered to be modular components.

Modular components and building consents

When applying for a building consent with us, you will be asked whether your building work contains modular components.

Knowing if a modular component construction project will need a building consent can be difficult to judge. If you are unsure, read our "Manufactured modular component guidance" document or contact us for help.

As a guideline:

  • simple component assembly work, such as putting together panels and frames, is less likely to be classified as building work under the Building Act 2004
  • connecting sub-assemblies together so that the building become partially or wholly complete - whether off-site or at the building’s desired final location - is considered to be building work and is likely to need a consent.

Information on the materials and components you are using, plus construction system details, must be provided to us before we can grant a building consent. 

Pre-application meetings

Your first step when looking to apply for a building consent for a development involving the use of prefabricated modular components, is to organise a pre-application meeting.

At the pre-application meeting you will gain an understanding of what documents you will need to provide, how to develop a Product Technical Statement, as well as information on working through the inspection programme and stages.

Product Technical Statement

A Product Technical Statement (PTS) is an essential part of any building consent application for projects that use internationally sourced modular components. A PTS helps us assess if your components meet NZ Building Code compliance.

The PTS process will cover three key stages of the development:

  • design of the modular component
  • fabrication of the modular component
  • transportation of units to a building site in Auckland

If approved, your PTS will be included in the Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) register held at Auckland Council and you will be issued a registration number to use on future projects with that manufacturer.

Inspections for modular building work

Due to the various methods of construction carried out in factories, standard assessment and inspection regimes may not be practical. We may choose to use alternative methods for ensuring compliance, such as quality assurance plans and auditing.

The inspection regime and stages will be determined during pre-application meetings.

If the manufacturing occurs within Auckland and is defined as building work, it is classed as a conventional building consent with a conventional inspection regime and does not fit within the scope of our modular guidance policy documents.

Manufacturers of modular components

Companies producing components for modular buildings that are not pre-certified via the Codemark product certification scheme (or by another NZ Building Consent Authority), will need to work with us so we can ensure their products meet the NZ Building Code.

This is done through a combination of:

  • onsite factory and desktop audits
  • a quality assurance plan showing how quality control is carried out within the factory
  • a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us to establish the responsibilities and performance expectations of both parties and how the process is managed.

For more information, see the “Manufactured modular component guidance” document.

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