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This fact sheet has been prepared to provide information about the requirements for installing smoke alarms in Class 1a and Class 1b buildings in accordance with Part 3.7.5 of the National Construction Code 2019, Building Code of Australia Volume 2 - Housing Provisions.

What is a Class 1a building?

A Class 1a building is a single dwelling primarily used by the one household as their place of residence and includes a dwelling used for short-term rental accommodation (STRA). Please note: STRA buildings are required to comply with the NSW government Fire Safety Standard

What is a Class 1b building?

A Class 1b building is a boarding house, guesthouse, hostel and the like that would ordinarily accommodate no more than 12 people and has a total floor area <300m2; or four or more single dwellings located on the one allotment used for tourist accommodation.

Requirements for smoke alarms

Smoke alarms installed within Class 1a and Class 1b buildings must comply with the following: 

  • AS 3786:2014 – Smoke alarms using scattered light, transmitted light or ionization; and
  • be connected to the consumer mains power where consumer power is supplied to the building; and
  • be interconnected where there is more than one alarm

Location for smoke alarms in Class 1a buildings

Smoke alarms must be installed in a Class 1a building on or near the ceiling in (refer to Diagram 'd' below):

  • any storey containing bedrooms, every corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom, or if there is no corridor or hallway, in an area between the bedrooms and the remainder of the building (refer to Diagram 'a' and 'b' below); and
  • any other storey not containing bedrooms

Location for Class 1b buildings

In a Class 1b building, smoke alarms must be installed on or near the ceiling in (refer to Diagram 'd' below):

  • every bedroom; and
  • every corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom. If there is no corridor or hallway, in an area between the bedrooms and the remainder of the building (refer to Diagram 'c' below); and
  • on each other storey

Lighting for Class 1b buildings to assist evacuation

In a Class 1b building, a system of lighting must be installed to assist evacuation of occupants in the event of a fire, and comply with the following:

  • Be activated by the smoke alarm(s) located within the building and consist of:
    • a light incorporated within the smoke alarm; or
    • the lighting located in the corridor, hallway or area served by the smoke alarm

(refer to Diagram 'c' below)

 Diagram a - Class 1a building where all bedrooms are grouped together and served by a hallway

Diagram b - Class 1a building where bedrooms are located in separate areas

Diagram c - Class 1b building where multiple bedrooms are served by a hallway

Diagram d - Location of smoke alarms to avoid dead air space

Updated April 2021. The above information is intended to provide general information in summary form. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the contents do not necessarily constitute specific advice and should not be relied upon as such.

This fact sheet provides guidance on building or converting a shed for habitable use, meaning the shed is proposed to be occupied or lived in. A reference to a shed in this fact sheet also includes a garage, farm building, shipping container and any other non-habitable building or structure.

Do I need approval to build a shed?

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 allows smaller sheds and specific farm buildings to be built without development approval. It is up to the land owner to satisfy themselves whether a shed complies with the exempt provisions.

All sheds that do not meet the exempt provisions must receive consent by way of a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) or Development Application (DA) and Construction Certificate (CC).

Can I live in a shed?

Any building or structure intending to be used for habitable purposes (eg living, sleeping etc) must first receive development approval. It is illegal to live in a shed, garage, shipping container, farm building or the like without approval.

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) classifies sheds as non-habitable buildings and therefore they are not required to meet the higher standards of construction or require the same facilities as a dwelling house. This means they are not meant to be used as a residence or to be lived in.

A lawful conversion of a shed into a dwelling or residence will require compliance with the building codes and other standards which apply to dwellings. A higher standard is applied to dwellings to ensure safety of the people who live in the dwelling.

Can I put a toilet, bathroom or laundry in a shed?

You can seek approval to install a toilet, bathroom (shower and hand basin) or laundry in a shed as part of your development consent application.  However, this cannot include a kitchen as it would change the classification of the structure from a shed to a dwelling. 

Retrofitting or installing facilities into an existing shed also requires development consent, even if the shed was originally built as exempt development.

Can I build or convert an existing shed as a dwelling?

You can build a new shed or convert an existing shed into a dwelling, but only with development consent.

Ideally the new shed or shed conversion will incorporate building elements and design features that adopts the appearance of a typical dwelling, such as a timber or glazed front door, window and entry feature, roofed verandahs, decks and landscaping. The plans submitted with the development application will need to demonstrate how the building will comply with the BCA. You are encouraged to seek advice from an experienced builder, architect or consultant to assist you with these enquiries. You may also make enquires with Council’s duty planning or building staff.

If your shed conversion to a dwelling or new shed dwelling is completed, before you can start living in it, you must get an Occupation Certificate from a Principal Certifying Authority (PCA) certifying that the building is suitable for use and occupation. A PCA may be a Private Certifier or Council.

What is Dwelling Eligibility?

Not every property has permission to build a dwelling. There may be land size, zoning or other planning restrictions that will determine whether you can build or convert a shed as a dwelling. You can request for Council to undertake a Dwelling Entitlement Check which will advise you if your property has permissibility for a dwelling house.

What happens if I don’t have Development Consent?

Cessnock Council is the regulatory authority for development within the local government area. Council is responsible to ensure planning and building laws are followed and that buildings are safe and suitable for their intended use. Council has an obligation to ensure appropriate legal action is taken against those who disregard the law.

Council’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy provides guidance as to what action Council may take against those who have committed a breach of planning or building laws. Significant penalties can be imposed on individuals who fail to obtain development consent prior to building or converting a shed as a dwelling.

If you do not have development consent or are unsure if you have approval to use a shed as a dwelling, you can lodge a request under the Government Information (Public Access) Act, wherein you can ask Council to provide you with any development and building approvals that relate to your land.

Council does give consideration to individuals who voluntarily seek to regularise unauthorised development and cooperate with Council’s requirements.


Further information or enquiries can be directed to Council’s Duty Building Officer, who is available Monday to Friday, between 1pm and 5pm, either in person at Council’s administration building, via phone on 4993 4100 or email on council@cessnock.nsw.gov.au.

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