Choosing the right block to build on

Kalka streetscape

When buying land in Brisbane, if it’s vacant land or with an existing house on it, there are a few things to be aware of that could save you thousands of dollars in build costs. Each of these items can be minor in cost but when added together, your build cost can increase by large amounts. Before purchasing a new block speak to a friendly builder who will meet you at the block and check out what additional costs you could be up for.
Things to look out for:

  • If there is a house on the block, when was it built?  Anything built before 1946 in Brisbane City Council may have demolition restrictions on it, so it can’t be demolished.
  • In Brisbane City Council, if a block is 450m2 or smaller a ‘Small Lot Code’ will apply. This code will also apply on rear battle-axe lots under 600m2. Some other Local Councils may have housing codes that apply on lots of different sizes. These house’ codes will dictate the size and height of the home as well as a number of design considerations. See attached image.
  • How much slope is there on the land?  The greater the slope the more it will cost to build.  Some builders won’t build on sloping blocks.  It may require a custom designed home to suit the slope, which will cost more than a standard plan.
  • Sloping blocks generally require retaining walls and if the retaining walls are higher than one meter, they will require engineering and building approval which increases the costs even more. Retaining walls within 1.5m of another wall or structure also require engineering and building approval
  • If a sloping block needs to be cut into ‘steps’ or platforms to build on, then there may be additional cost in disposing of the excess soil.
  • In low density residential zones there are restrictions on how high you can build above the natural ground level.  On a sloping block it means the new home has to step up or down the block and this requires additional foundations which cost more.
  • Are there any Council Overlays that apply to the block?  There is a long list of Council overlays and they can be minor or they could cost a lot more to build on the block.  Overlays like Flood, Tidal Surge, Overland Flow, Bush fire, Noise corridors, Traditional Building Code, Character, Bicycle Network, Acid Sulphate Soils……  Each of these overlays may require an engineers report before council will give approval to build on the block and these are additional fees for the block owner
  • Does the land developer have a ‘Plan of Development’ (POD)? This POD can vary the provisions of the planning scheme codes and the Qld Development Code which relate to setbacks, building height, open space, etc. This POD will almost certainly determine where the driveway access is located and any ‘zero’ boundaries.
  • Are there building covenants or design guidelines on the block?  Developers can add their own building covenants or design guidelines which determine building styles and colours to keep a new area at a certain level of design or build values.
  • Does the block have survey pegs in each corner or at each change of angle on the boundaries?  Before construction can commence, a block needs to have at least three out of four corner survey pegs or it will need to be resurveyed.
  • If the block is in a busy or narrow street then it may require Traffic Control throughout the build.
  • If a block slopes down and away from the road then you need to think about where the storm water will go to.  If it’s a mild slope then it may be able to come back to the road kerb.  If the stormwater has to discharge to the rear, you will need to obtain the permission of the rear neighbour to run stormwater lines through their property. Without this permission, it may not be possible to build on the lot without significant cost to remove the stormwater to the street. In most new estates, an underground stormwater line is available at the rear to connect into, so in these cases the stormwater is not an issue.