Certificates of Structural Adequacy

WARNING: You cannot legitimately get a Certificate of an Independent Technical Expert (Regulation 88), unless you already have engineering/technical calculations or some other form of certification (or documented evidence-of-suitability). Also note that the South Australian Development Application fees typically cover the cost of council sending engineering design out for review and certification by an independent technical expert. Merely being a CP.Eng is not adequate qualification for an independent technical expert: the all important criteria is independence from involvement in the technical/engineering design.

If you don’t already have engineering documents, then you either require engineering design or a certificate of structural adequacy. Such certificates can be supplied by any suitably qualified person, they do not need to be CP.Eng, they can be: engineers, technologists, associate technologists (engineering associates). They need to be suitably qualified to such extent that they can defend and justify the proposed structure to the satisfaction of the independent technical expert.

A certificate of structural adequacy identifies a building proposal as having been assessed against the structural provisions of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and found to be compliant with the requirements. Alternatively the certificate can simply identify the structure as suitable for purpose when assessed against other performance criteria which the author of the certificate considers to be acceptable and more appropriate than those in the BCA. The latter being particularly important for BCA Class 10 buildings for which the BCA is not entirely suitable. The BCA being primarily for habitable buildings, whilst class 10 buildings are typically anything in the built environment which doesn’t fit any other BCA class. (eg. sheds, carports, sports-nets, privacy screens, antenna’s, towers, light poles)

A certificate of structural adequacy is independent of legislation, and should not be confused with a certificate of an independent technical expert (CITE). The latter certificate is to meet specific requirements of the South Australian Development Act and Regulations. The most important aspect of a CITE is independence, and such independence is strictly enforced. Independence includes independence from involvement in design, consequently, often an engineer cannot issue a CITE because they are the first and only person to look at a building proposal with a designers perspective. Builders, most building designers and plan drafters do not design buildings, they merely specify and document the building proposal. That is they merely provide a description of the building they do not demonstrate that the building is suitable for its intended purpose, nor do they set out with the intent of making the building suitable for purpose.

The result is that when an engineer or other engineering practitioner (EP) looks at the building proposal, they tend to find the structure is inadequate. The EP can determine the requirements to make the structure adequate and list these on their certificate, but they are no longer independent. In such case the independent check will be carried out by Councils engineer or the Private Certifiers engineer.

Since there are no calculations to check when a certificate is issued, such certificate is only of any real value for those structures which can be assessed quickly and simply using back-of-envelope calculations, published tables and charts, or readily available computer software, or rapid assessment tools developed by the EP’s themselves. Engineers carrying out the independent check do not necessarily have the same rapid assessment tools as those issuing certificates of structural adequacy, consequently delays may occur if calculation reports are not issued.

However, calculation reports take additional time to produce compared to simply making an assessment. Reports and/or certificates also need producing in multiple copies for development approval, and all these copies need storing somewhere and keeping track off. A simple one page certificate is therefore more efficient than a detailed report. However there are limitations to the use of certificates, and therefore in general should typically seek a design report.

For a certificate to be issued the following are required:

1) Structural drawings
2) Structural schedules

These drawings should be compliant with the Australian Drafting Standard, in particular each sheet of paper should have a unique reference, and each detail on the sheet should be uniquely identifiable. If its a simple structure then the building design drawings may be acceptable if all additional structural information is added to these drawings.


  1. In Australia, Engineers Australia defines 3 levels of engineering practitioner, these are: Engineer (4 year B.Eng), Engineering Technologist (3 year B.Tech), Engineering Associate (2 year Associate Diploma, or AQF Advanced Diploma). Membership of Engineers Australia is voluntary.
  2. The World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) defines 3 levels of engineering practitioner these are: Engineer (4 year B.Eng), Engineering Technologist (3 year B.Tech), Engineering Technician (2 year Associate Degree). Australia’s Engineering Associates have been equated to the Engineering Technicians though originally their job function was completely different and at a higher level.
  3.  Due to the attitudes of the so called “engineers”, I prefer to avoid the terms: engineer, and engineering. I define engineering taking place at the frontiers of science and technology. Few work at the frontiers, they work with established technologies for which there is an established body of technical knowledge. I therefore prefer to refer to technologists and associate technologists. Similarly I refer to technical planning, design and management, rather than engineering planning, design and management. Not engineering calculations, but technical calculations or evidence-of-suitability.


  1. [03/09/2013]: Original
  2. [29/12/2017]: Added warnings