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Understanding 9B Certification

Since the onset of COVID-19 many businesses specialising in education and training have had to re-evaluate their campus requirements to strike a revised balance for in-person classes and those that can be held online, as well as accounting for the reality that overseas students wouldn’t be present for an unknown period of time. Initially this led to a retraction of space for a number of providers, but as borders reopen and the economy warms in 2022, the then-dormant demand for 9B compliant space is now bolting.

Existing 9B compliant space in the Brisbane CBD is often low in supply and ‘ready-to-go’ spaces are hard to find. Conventional commercial office spaces are often built speculatively in preparation for incoming tenants. As a result of the above, existing fitted space with 9B Certification is generally sought-after and with a dearth of supply (as of early 2022) many tenants are now turning to unfitted space in properties that are 9B capable for a solution. The below will provide some clarity on what to look for in terms of property suitability, capability and the major considerations that need to be made when beginning your search.

Overall compliance regulations for education space falls within the National Construction Code (NCC) as well as the Building Code of Australia (BCA). This is all driven by the Australian Standards. As a whole these are Federal requirements and cover Australia as a whole. When looking at each State individually, there are requirements, detailed in state-by-state legislation, that must be processed and applied for through local councils and/or the Principal Certifying Authority.


As a whole, achieving 9B Compliance for a space can be broken down into a 2-Step process;


The first step is Approval.

Approval requires confirmation that education/training is generally a permissible use of the space/property under the Council’s Local Environmental Plan (LEP) as well as the Development Control Plan (DCP). This can be completed through the lodgement of an application to the local council. This could be done through a Development Application (DA) or a Planning Permit (PP) and will likely be dependent on the state in which you are looking to operate. The above can take up to 3-4 months to gain successful approval. Once completed, you have reassurance that your operation can operate within this space.

The second step is Compliance and Certification.

Council approval in this step is entirely conditional on the new premises complying with the BCA and NCC. It also ensures that it complies under the code. You will receive a certificate provided by the Certifying Authority. This certificate is required before any fit out works are undertaken within your chosen location. The Certifying Authority will ensure that any works undertaken will comply with the BCA. Once fit out works are completed, the Certifying Authority will return to inspect the works, ensuring that they comply once again. An Occupation Certificate (OC) will be provided to confirm that the premises is Class 9B Compliant. It is key to understand that under the Code, there is no material difference between Domestic and International campuses. Class 9B Certification and Compliance applies to both alike.

A common pitfall within the education market we see is the failure to find distinction between RTO Regulators/HE Sectors and Local Council/Certifying Authority Regulations. Bodies such as ASQA or TEQSA will not often request information pertaining to Class 9B OC, however this is a crucial requirement for your occupation of the premises. It is key to understand that when searching for a new premises under the BCA, there are six (6) main factors that impact student capacity and only one of these is the physical size of the space itself.

Commonly, Education providers will technically have ample space for a certain volume of students (per sqm) however it is the balance of the remaining factors that minimise their capabilities, thus impacting the overall maximum revenue able to be gained. These factors are covered below.

Major considerations that need to be made once you’ve found the right space


Once you’ve identified the right space for your operation:

  • Traditionally, tenants have had to undertake the 9B Certification process for spaces they wanted to occupy as opposed to leaving the onus on the Landlords.
  • Some groups may look to have their lease conditional on being approved for 9B Certification. It should be stressed that many Landlords will not agree to this as it adds a level of uncertainty to their situation.
  • Liaise with your chosen professional to ensure you can achieve the desired occupancy figures. We understand that capacity is a key figure for many groups as it directly impacts the overall revenue that can be achieved from the space.

What factors are important to consider when assessing 9B capability?


Below are the main aspects considered when assessing a property for 9B Classification/capability. We would strongly recommend reaching out to a professional regarding these however it is still recommended to be across the information below:

 It is important to understand –

  • Change of use for building/office space as there are certain requirements that need to be met (i.e. fire safety, exit signage etc.).
  • Type of construction based on BCA Class of Building & Rise of Storey.
  • Optimum/Maximum Student capacity numbers as they directly impacted by building features such as exits and toilet facilities.
  • Gross Learning Area – often depicted as 2 students/sqm however, this is a very vague figure and is highly dependent on the classification completed by an approved certifier.
  • BCA – building code guideline/ National Construction Code.


What building factors impact eligibility/capacity directly?     


  • Emergency lights
    • Emergency lighting system must be installed;
      • In every storey which has floor area >300sqm.
      • Every room or space where there is public access in every multi-storey 9B building.
    • Air flow
      • There is a need for ventilation system and 5% ventilation requirement based on floor space in area. This is also dependent on which air conditioning system is used and whether ceiling fans are available or not. Natural/mechanical ventilation system control is required as it has impact on air flow rate.
    • Student capacity
    • Exit signage
      • Ability to locate and find access to exits.
      • Ability to clearly see signs and markers through use of internally illuminated exit signs.
      • Ability to see signs or markers during evacuation.
    • Fire safety
      • The fire safety system cannot be easily compromised as it impacts safety of occupants.
      • Appropriate fire safety system affects rate of fire spread.
      • Considered fire brigade access in building.
      • This can be assessed using the specific fire safety verification method.
    • Door and corridor widths
    • Toilet facilities, and;
    • Disabled access and disabled toilet facilities.


What costs need to be considered for 9B Certification?


  • The amount of capital expenditure required. This can include, but not limited to;
    • Fit out
    • Structural building and amenity alterations
  • Air-conditioning compliance and costs
    • Often, air conditioning costs are covered within the rent paid by tenants. Considering a good portion of education spaces require their own separate air conditioning system, this will likely be considered an additional cost of the lease.
  • Fire exits: making sure current code for fire services will be in line with 9B certification. The certification may require fire services to arrive on site and assess the situation physically. This would include a call-out cost estimated to be $2,000 – $4,000 as a one-off cost.
  • Works to disabled access and egress
  • Council fees which are based on construction costs. There are also costs attached to documentation required for applications. The more construction required, the higher likelihood of increased construction fees.
  • Costs to engage a town planner may cost between $4k-$5k but would more likely lead to more successful outcomes and we would advise this as a good investment. Engaging a town planner is not necessarily as costly as most would expect. Please note that a town planner is not always required.


The above outlines some of the most essential points that must be considered when searching for or creating a 9B Compliant space for your operation. For assistance with these matters, including assistance in locating your next campus, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Caden team.

Not sure how much office space you need? Our calculator could help.