Farm buildings

The Queensland Development Code (QDC) MP 3.7 – Farm buildings (PDF, 163KB) commenced on 1 June 2015.

MP 3.7 cuts costs and reduces red tape for expanding farm industries. It provides common sense and practical concessions to some National Construction Code (NCC) requirements that are not appropriate for farm buildings.

It also provides certainty and consistency in how building work for contemporary farm buildings is assessed.

This ensures that farm buildings meet minimum standards of fire and life safety, health and amenity that are suitable for their use.

When MP 3.7 applies

MP 3.7 applies to:

  • Class 7 farm buildings (e.g. farm vehicle storage shed)
  • Class 8 farm buildings (e.g. chicken/egg shed, piggery, dairy, vegetable greenhouse or a fruit or vegetable packing shed).

MP 3.7 provides concessions for:

  • access and egress
  • artificial lighting
  • exit signs
  • emergency lighting
  • fire safety systems
  • equipment and water supply (including reduced water supply for fire hydrant systems or installation of on-site water tanks instead of fire hydrant systems).

MP 3.7 includes concessions for 3 farm building categories:

  • Low occupancy farm buildings: all the concessions apply.
  • High occupancy farm buildings: concessions apply for fire hose reels (if fire extinguishers are installed instead) and water supply for firefighting.
  • Vehicle storage farm buildings: concessions include some of the lesser building requirements similar to those for Class 10a buildings (e.g. a non-habitable private garage), if additional life and fire safety measures are included, such as exit signs and fire extinguishers. The concession for fire hydrant systems also applies if the building is more than 500m2 in floor area.

When MP 3.7 doesn't apply

MP 3.7 doesn't apply to farm buildings where a sprinkler system is required under the NCC.

A building certifier may also need to consider section 79 of the Building Act 1975 for hazardous buildings.

Determining occupancy level

The definition of 'low occupancy farm building' sets a limit on the number of people that the building can accommodate.

The total number of people in a low occupancy farm building can't exceed:

  • 6 people if the total floor area of the farm building is up to 1,200m2
  • 1 person per 200m2 of floor area if the total floor area of the farm building is more than 1,200m2.

If a farm building exceeds the occupant density for a 'low occupancy farm building', it is defined as a 'high occupancy farm building'.

For example:

  • A farm building with a floor area of 800m2 would be a low occupancy farm building if it was designed to accommodate no more than 6 people.
  • For a farm building with a floor area of 1,600m2, 1 person per 200m2 equates to 8 people. Therefore, if that building is designed to accommodate:
    • no more than 8 people, it is a low occupancy farm building
    • 11 people, it is a high occupancy farm building.

See MP 3.7 for more examples of how to determine occupancy level.

Vehicle storage farm buildings

MP 3.7 defines a vehicle storage farm building as a farm building that both:

  • stores 3 or more vehicles used in relation to farming, such as a tractor, harvester, utility truck or quad/motor bike
  • is designed to the same occupancy limits as a low occupancy farm building.

A vehicle storage farm building may also store other farm items, such as feed. This use is acceptable if at least 90% of the building's space is designated for storing farm vehicles.

A vehicle storage farm building may be used for routine maintenance and repairs when required.

However, if the building is a commercial workshop not used for farming on the land, it's not a vehicle storage farm building.

MP 3.7 doesn't vary the classification system under the NCC for a Class 7a building. However, it does vary some of the NCC provisions that usually apply to a Class 7a building that is a vehicle storage farm building.

Instead, MP 3.7 enables a vehicle storage farm building to meet some lesser building requirements that would otherwise apply for a Class 10a shed (if it meets life and fire safety provisions that are additional to Class 10a buildings).

These requirements include:

  • solutions for fire extinguishers
  • the number and position of exits
  • separation distances from other buildings and property boundaries.

Because a vehicle storage farm building is still a Class 7a building under the NCC, any NCC requirements not varied under MP 3.7 (e.g. disability access) still apply.

Other requirements under the Building Act that usually apply to a Class 7a building also still apply (e.g. the need for a certificate of classification).

How MP 3.7 varies the NCC

MP 3.7 provides some flexibility to apply either the concessions or the relevant part of the NCC in full.

Any NCC requirements not varied by MP 3.7 still apply.

For example:

  • The performance criteria under P1 and P2 replicate the performance requirements in the NCC. The corresponding options under the acceptable solutions of MP 3.7 allow the applicant to comply with either the NCC or other requirements under MP 3.7.
  • P5 replicates a performance requirement in the NCC. However, where exit signs may adversely affect the behaviour or welfare of farm animals, acceptable solution A5(3) must be used.

On-site water tanks

The acceptable solutions under A3 of MP 3.7 enable a farm building to have an on-site water tank rather than a fire hydrant system.

On-site water tanks must:

  • have a capacity of at least 144,000L available for firefighting purposes at all times
  • be fitted with appropriate fittings, such as a hard-suction outlet used by the fire brigade
  • have an identifiable and clearly marked parking space adjacent for use by the fire brigade
  • be located so no point of the farm building is more than 90m from the tank, measured around the perimeter of the building
  • be located within 300m of another tank if there are multiple on-site tanks.

Referral agency advice

The Planning Regulation 2017 prescribes the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) as an advice agency for referrals under MP 3.7.

Referrals are needed when the proposed work doesn't comply with the acceptable solutions of MP 3.7 for access and egress, and water supply.

MP 3.7 doesn't alter other referral processes under the Sustainable Planning Regulation for building work that may apply to a farm building (e.g. fire safety services).

For example, the proposed code allows on-site water tanks to be installed instead of a fire hydrant system. However, an application will be referred to the QFES for advice if an applicant either:

  • applies the NCC and installs a fire hydrant
  • applies the option to reduce water supply for a fire hydrant from 4 hours to 2 hours.

Note: On-site water tanks are not considered a special fire service, so referral to the QFES is not needed (though you should refer to the requirement for Form 33 below).

Additionally, on-site water tanks are not a fire safety installation under the Building Act for commissioning and maintenance. On-site water tanks may be used for other farm purposes but must be maintained to the relevant provisions, including MP 3.7.

Form 33 for QFES

A building certifier must lodge a Form 33 – on-site water tank under QDC MP 3.7 (PDF, 114KB) with the QFES within 5 business days of getting application approval.

This form states that the acceptable solutions for on-site water tanks have been applied.

QFES can then keep records of the types of water supply available for firefighting.

Farm sheds not covered by MP 3.7

Under the Building Regulation 2021, some types of building work don't require approvals, including accepted development (previously called self-assessable development and exempt building work).

Accepted development (self assessable), as per Schedule 1 of the Building Regulation 2021, doesn't need building development approval but must still meet any relevant building assessment provisions.

Accepted development (exempt from relevant provisions), as per Schedule 2 of the Building Regulation 2021, doesn't need building development approval or to comply with any relevant building assessment provisions, including MP 3.7 (except those located in Wind Region C).

This includes certain Class 10 buildings or structures if they are:

  • located on land used for agricultural, floricultural, horticultural or pastoral purposes
  • more than 200m from a property boundary or road.

Read Building and Plumbing Newsflashes 69 and 70 (issued August 2000).

More information