Important note about 'habitable rooms'

If you’re intending to build what the Building Code of Australia defines as a ‘habitable room’ it’s definitely going to need some form of development approval and building certification depending on the rules and regulations pertaining to your site and location.

The definition of a non-habitable room includes a storage room, pantry, bathroom, laundry, toilet, hallway, walk-in wardrobe, corridor, gazebo, cabana, photographic darkroom, shed, and other types of rooms where human beings wouldn’t spend a significant amount of time. In most locations, it’s possible to build a non-habitable room up to a certain size without approval (NSW up to 20sqm if basic conditions are met).

The definition of a habitable room includes a bedroom, study, sewing room, dining room, living area, media room, home office, guest room, sleepout, etc. These rooms are literally an extension to the livable space of your primary residence, even if separate to the main building, and authorities must, therefore, ensure they are constructed so as to be safe and suitable for human habitation. Compliance with regulations is mandatory.

What could go wrong if you complete a non-compliant backyard development? Many things such as potentially voiding the insurance on your main house, being forced to remove or modify your non-compliant structure, not being insured for any injury to an occupant, and other potential risks which could arise.

Although compliance with habitable rooms and granny flat developments may cost quite a bit to achieve, think of it as an investment. It costs the same to construct the building in any case but a compliant structure adds value to your home whereas a non-compliant structure could be offputting to future buyers.

NSW: pre-approved backyard gazebos, sheds, cabanas, etc

Under current NSW legislation, minor backyard developments (cabanas, cubby houses, ferneries, garden sheds, gazebos, greenhouses) can be allowed without the hassle and expense of applying for local council approval providing certain regulations are satisfied.

Exempt developments in residential-zoned areas

Cabanas, cubby houses, ferneries, garden sheds, gazebos and greenhouses are the types of freestanding backyard structures which could potentially qualify for exemption from approval processes in NSW. What people call backyard pods, backyard cabins, backyard studios, etc may or may not be classified as “cabanas” or “sheds” for pre-approved development in residential and rural areas. Consider some basic rules below:

  • Floor area of structure not exceeding 20 square metres

  • Height of structure not exceeding 3m above existing ground level

  • Behind the building line of any road frontage

  • Not a shipping container

  • Not a 'habitable' room (eg: not a bedroom or room used by people for lengthy periods)

  • Roofwater managed without causing nuisance to any adjoining owner

  • If metal, constructed of low reflective, factory pre-coloured material (eg: Colorbond®)

  • If on bushfire-prone land less than 5m from a dwelling, built from non-combustible material

  • If adjacent to another building, not interfering with the building accessibility or fire safety

  • Not more than 2 such developments per residential allotment

Backyard pods AustraliaBackyard pods of up to 3m x 6m or 3.6 x 5m may qualify as an exempt development in residential areas because of features such as the low structural profile, non-reflective and non-combustible Colorbond corrugated-profile exterior walling, and inclusion of a proper guttering system to allow for the environmentally-friendly collection of excess roofwater in a rainwater tank, or stormwater disposal.

If you’re in NSW, review Section 9 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 legislation with reference to your specific situation.

We simply supply backyard pod kits according to the purchaser’s instructions. It is ultimately your responsibility to ensure your plans for development and your intentions for use are either exempt or compliant with guidelines as specific to your proposed site and any regulations affecting your local area.

NSW: exempt developments in rural-zoned areas

The rules for exempt development of cabanas, cubby houses, ferneries, garden sheds, gazebos and greenhouses on rural-zoned properties are essentially the same as the rules for residential-zoned properties, the two major differences being:

  • Floor area of structure not exceeding 50 square metres

  • Not necessarily behind the building line of any road frontage

Farm-stay cabins AustraliaBackyard pods up to the maximum available sizes of 3m x 10m or 3.6 x 10m may qualify as an exempt development in rural areas because of features such as the low structural profile, non-reflective and non-combustible Colorbond corrugated-profile exterior walling, and inclusion of a proper guttering system to allow for the environmentally-friendly collection of excess roofwater in a rainwater tank, or channeling into larger rainwater storage tanks.

If you’re in NSW, review Section 9 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 legislation with reference to your specific situation.

We simply supply backyard pod kits according to purchaser instructions. It is ultimately your responsibility to ensure your plans for development and your intentions for use are either exempt or compliant with guidelines as specific to your proposed site and any regulations affecting your local area.

Brisbane QLD: granny flat regulations

In general, the regulations surrounding granny flat developments in Queensland tend to be more relaxed than in New South Wales. For example, read the Brisbane City Council granny flat fact sheet.

Gold Coast QLD: granny flat regulations

The rules for granny flats on the Gold Coast are not the same as in Brisbane. Read the Gold Coast building regulations for secondary dwellings.