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Inspecting the Kiwi Way


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By Mike O'Handley, Editor - TIJ

Have you ever wondered about home inspectors in countries outside of North America? I did, so I began to look around and found out that we North Americans don't hold the franchise on home inspections. For the next few months, I'll try to tell you a little bit about inspectors in other countries. Here's what I found out about the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors.

The New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors (NZIBS) is a national body of skilled, professional building consultants who have a high degree of qualification, knowledge and experience that report to the standards set by the institute. NZIBS was was first established in 1994 in Dunedin, NZ as a voluntary professional association and has since grown to over 90 members. Members of NZIBS are either owners or employees of professional building inspection companies throughout New Zealand; and, according to their website, are recognized as the leading authority in the building inspection industry in that country.

NZIBS inspectors are expected to have the education and skills required of any Registered Building Surveyor (RBS) in New Zealand. An RBS must have a working knowledge and ability to undertake certain specific tasks. The following was obtained directly from the NZIBS website and categorizes those areas of expertise as follows:

Inspection and Reporting

  • Prepurchase/building condition survey and reporting on residential and commercial properties.
  • Building defect/failure investigation and reporting.
  • Inspection and compiling "Safe and Sanitary" reports.
  • Interpretation and reporting on construction compliance issues.
Building Technology and Construction
  • Provide advice/opinion on building materials, systems, selection, usage, assembly and repair.
  • Provide advice on the performance of building materials and the effects of natural elements. This would include the performance of water with regard to leakage and the types of mould and decay expected to be encountered in New Zealand conditions.
  • Provide advice/design on materials, systems and alternatives for building repairs and reinstatement.
  • Audit or review construction documentation to identify anticipated defect and problem areas.
Asset Management
  • Provide advice on property maintenance and frequencies.
  • Undertake maintenance surveys and reporting.
  • Compile maintenance programmes and budgets.
  • Compile asset inventories. This could include furniture, fittings with regard to identifying quality and quantity for asset registers.
Legislation/Dispute Resolution/Ethics
  • Have an awareness of the NZIBS Rules and Practice Notes, along with ethical requirements.
  • Have an awareness of the legislation affecting the building industry.
  • Have a knowledge of the avenues of dispute resolution applicable to the construction industry.
  • Understand the role of the building surveyor as an expert witness.
Inspectors in this country carp all the time about how there are so many unqualified people in the home inspection business and how they wish things would get better; however, when it comes to actually moving as a profession toward more rigid requirements for entry into the profession, we drag our feet and one hears, "Licensing solves nothing," and "This ain't rocket science; why should inspectors need to be college educated."

It's no wonder that those who are flipping burgers for minimum wage today are still able, in many states, to go out and print up business cards this afternoon and tomorrow hold themselves out as "Professional Home Inspectors."

In Kiwiland one is prohibited from practicing as an inspector until one's qualifications are proven and the path to national certification and acceptance into NZIBS ain't easy, as they say. Here are their requirements extracted from their Regulation 01:


A prerequisite of continuing membership of the Institute is that the member shall be actively involved in the work of a Building Surveyor. In conjunction with the annual presentation of a CPD claim form, the member shall forward the annual Work Verification claim form to verify that they are actively involved in the work of a Building Surveyor. A pre-requisite for continuing Registered Membership of the Institute is that the member shall carry Professional Indemnity Insurance, or be Indemnified for the Building Surveying work being undertaken by the member.

The minimum requirements for Registered membership are:

  • 1. New Zealand Certificate of Building, National Diploma in Construction Management, Bachelor of Building Science, or such other qualification considered by a sub-committee of the Executive to be equivalent to or acceptable as an alternative;


2. A member of another professional group considered as being acceptable by the Executive of the Institute, or a sub committee of that Executive;


Such other persons who have the ability to demonstrate their knowledge of the construction industry to the full satisfaction the Executive of the Institute, or a sub committee of that Executive, given the responsibility of the assessment of all applicants;


3. Have a minimum of five (5) years appropriate experience in construction management, supervision or consulting


4. Can substantiate that they are of good standing in the community at large and can provide two referees or sponsors to act on their behalf.

The Executive at their absolute discretion may accept applications for membership where the qualification criteria outlined in (1) above is not met, but where the requirements of (2), (3), and (4) above are met, and where the applicant can demonstrate extensive experience in all aspects of building surveying work. This experience review will only be considered in very special circumstances.

Such persons who apply for membership of the Institute, must declare that they are free from any claims for negligence or any matters of financial restraint or associated financial problems that could prejudice their meeting the standards required of a registered building surveyor.

Is it any wonder then that surveyors in New Zealand typically attend college for four to six years before becoming employed as an apprentice in established surveying firms?

So, how different are their inspections, really; are they some kind of super analysis of the building? Not really, their standards aren't that much different than those that home inspectors work under here in the States. The following are the NZIBS standards:


This standard applies to all inspections carried out after 1 September 1996 and represents the views of the Executive of the Institute and it is recommended that this Standard be adopted by members as a principle of "best practice" for the inspection of all residential and commercial properties.


Inspect & Advise - To inspect and provide advice to the client with regard to items of concern or where problems identify themselves particular to the brief of request by the client.

Duty of Care - To understand the requirements of "duty of care" and to highlight any factors that could affect the property that were visible.

Written Report - To provide a written report highlighting the concerns or problems uncovered.


Method of Inspection - The surveyor should undertake a visual inspection of the areas concerned with the brief. The surveyor should check if there are other factors that are materially affecting the matters required and where possible the surveyor should request permission to use destructive and instrument assisted inspections to help ascertain the cause of the problems or concerns.

Prepurchase Inspections - When a pre-purchase inspection is undertaken care should be made by the surveyor as to the method and type of inspection required. Where there is no specific brief to the contrary the surveyor should examine the roof, sub-floor spaces, if any, and the roof space or any other accessible area.

Accessibility - If the building surveyor is on site with the owners of the property and is reporting to them, then it is reasonable to ask or expect them to provide or give permission for the removal of shelves or any other physical item that prevents access into roof spaces or alternatively floor spaces. If the property is the property of a third party then the surveyor can be only expected to use the access provided it is free and clear for use. The surveyor should make every endeavour to pre-warn the person giving access that this type of accessibility may be required.

Proof of Opinion - The nature of the report should be undertaken by the surveyor in a manner where there is a burden upon the surveyor to find proof to sustain opinion rather than merely having the reliance on opinions. This may require: requests for destructive testing, that is, the removal of wall panels or some other element. If such a request is turned down then care must be taken by the surveyor to take note of that and include that information in their report. The risk of making opinion based on assumption, is that it could easily be wrong, however, at times this may have to occur and again this should be clearly highlighted as an opinion based on an assumption rather than fact, one that may need to be altered or changed if further facts come to light.

LIM's or Council File - The surveyor is not required to ask for a LIM report, nor required to inspect Council or Territorial Authority's files unless there is specific instruction to do so. If there are factors that highlight themselves during the inspection that may require further checking through Council records that matter should be handled by a notation within the report.


Type of Format - The surveyor should supply a report in a written format, it may be permissible that such a format could be in the form of a pre-endorsed form such as check list format provided that the comments made are clear and legible.

True Copy - The surveyor should keep a true copy of his report together with any notes taken on site for a reasonable period.

Basic Notes - All reports should be dated, should note the type of access given and should clearly state what instructions were given to the surveyor for the inspection.

Logical Layout - The layout or form of the report should be logical and easily understood.

Matters Arising - Any matters arising such as factors mentioned above with regard to the inspection should be identified and carried forward to the report.

Type of Inspection - There should be a statement within the opening or body of the report that clearly highlights the type of inspection requested and carried out, that is visual, instrument based, destructive, or for instance, merely a preliminary "look and view".

Addressing - The report should clearly state the property address and to whom the report is addressed to.

Directing Reports - If the surveyor is informed that the report is also required for meeting the condition for a 'Sale and Purchase Agreement' or lending situation then either the solicitor or the lender should be identified within the report.

Incomplete Inspection - If any part of the inspection was not able to be carried out for whatever reason then this should be clearly stated in the report.

Source of Information - If any information is given or provided and has been relied upon within the report then it should be clearly stated as to its source and the type of information.

Matters of Concern - The surveyor, if he notes a matter of concern, has the option either to include that as a comment at the end of the report even though it may not be strictly material to the visit or alternatively should write separately to the report, to their party informing them of their concern with another matter.

Recommendations - If there are other professionals required then the report should highlight and recommend those professions, such as: an engineer, a geo-technical consultant, or a specialised drainage surveyor.

Content Specific - The report should be clearly specific as to the items that it does cover so that there is no doubt as to the manner and type of inspection undertaken.


Records - The surveyor should make and retain legible notes as to their findings and particularly the limits of the inspection and the circumstances under which it was carried out.


Disclosure - If the surveyor has undertaken a formal report that is not made in accordance with this practice standard they should give reasons for their departure.

As you can see, though the expectations for inspections and what an inspector reports about in New Zealand are not that much different from our own, inspectors (surveyors) there put a whole lot more time, effort, and expense into how they enter the business; in short, they truly can call themselves professionals.

I think that we could learn a lot from studying the Kiwi model and I think that we Yanks have a long way to go before we will be able to call ourselves true professionals with a straight face. If you'd like to learn more about NZIBS, check out their website.

Next Month: The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS)


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Hi All,

Here are some Kiwi building publications that I think you'll all be interested in. Don't ignore these because they come from down under; those folks use the same lumber framing and building techniques that we do. In fact, US companies like James Hardie and L-P do so much business there that they have plants down there. You can learn some good stuff here!

OT - OF!!!


Construction Cavities For Wall Claddings (Details for rain screen walls)

External Moisture Design Principles (Details for building in moist climates)

External Moisture Guide (Risk matrix guide for building in damp climates)

Timber Treatment Requirements

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