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Shipping containers and using them as a building

The following guidance note outlines regulatory considerations and when building consent will be required.
Updated: 23/04/2019 11:20 a.m.

This guidance addresses the more common day-to-day enquiries Council receives about the use of shipping containers but does not consider every possible adaptation.

This information is strictly for guidance with respect to the Building Act 2004 and associated regulations.

Shipping containers have a variety of uses – especially when they can be seen as a ready-made building. However, there are some things that need to be considered.

A shipping container can fall under the Building Act 2004. For example, it can be considered to:

  • be a building under section 8 of the Building Act 2004

Section 8 of the Building Act 2004

  • be an "ancillary building" as defined in NZBC Clause A1, 8.0 – not intended for human habitation

New Zealand Building Code A1

  • have with an intended use of intermittent activity (IA) under Schedule 2, (Specified Systems, Change of Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005),

Specified Systems, Change of Use and Earthquake-prone Buildings Regulations 2005

There may be other breaches such as of the District Plan. Therefore, you are urged to contact Council before starting any works.

General notes

If you are to use the container for anything other than storage – it will likely require building consent.

If the container is to be placed or founded on "good ground" (e.g. 300 kPa ultimate bearing capacity or more), i.e. there are no subsidence issues and the ground will be capable of holding the weight if the container and contents, and used for simply storing items, and is placed on site so that it does not breech any planning rules or requirements, then no building consent will be required either.

Placing or moving a shipping container on, or around, a premise is not considered building work, and doesn’t require a Building Consent to do either action.

If you make, create, lay concrete or piles or any other foundation work to site the container, this is considered building work. If the container is to be connected to reticulated services, this too is considered building work and could possibly be changing the use or importance level of the building, which may also trigger the need for consent.

All relevant design information may include some or all the following: site plan, design drawings, specifications, possible fire report, ground report, services plans, engineers’ producer statements (e.g. SED (Specific engineered Design) foundation designs) etc.

Some building works may be exempt from requiring a Building Consent reference the Building Act 2004 (Schedule 1). It’s for the building owner to ultimately determine if a Building Consent is required or not. Further information is available from MBIE.

Check if you need consent

Please check with a council planning officer for any District Plan requirements that may apply – even if no building consent is required.

Other items of legislation have beenmay be used to show and when consent may or may not be required.

Section 112 of the Building Act 2004 relate to "Alterations to existing buildings"

Sections 114 and 115 of the Building Act 2004 relate to "Change of use"

For the purposes of sections 114 and 115 of the Building Act, change the use, in relation to a building, means to change the use of all or a part of the building from one use (the old use) to another (the new use) and with the result that the requirements for compliance with the building code in relation to the new use are additional to, or more onerous than, the requirements for compliance with the building code in relation to the old use. 

If the new use is ‘more onerous’ building work may be required to bring the building 'up to specification'. If the shipping container is to be used for more than simple on site storage, then a consent may well be required for the new use.

Note: if building work is undertaken that requires consent the owner may be prosecuted under the Building Act 2004 or you may breach District Planning Rules – therefore you are urged to contact our officers before starting any works that could make you liable.



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