Structural engineering and construction requirements - Building a brick wall or fence in Australia

Are you planning to add value to your home, while increasing security and privacy? Constructing a brick fence or screen wall is certainly a great solution. At Engineering Plans Australia (EPA) we can assist with certified structural engineering drawings for all types of fences whether constructed with brick, limestone or concrete masonry. Our engineering drawings are suitable for Council approval in all major cities including Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. To determine which fencing style to choose, you may start by deciding the purpose you require the fence to serve. It might be a case of aesthetics, kerb appeal, security or privacy.

To assist with your decision, you may seek advice from an architect or a building designer and develop some concept drawings. The drawings should include an elevation view and plan view for the proposed fence together with dimensions and materials. The drawings are required during the engineering design process, Council approval and for cost estimation.

In some situations, the brick screen wall may be constructed on top of a retaining structure such as a limestone retaining wall. Creating a unique look can be achieved through a wide selection of brick choices, detailing brick rebates and by rendering. There is also the option of constructing the screen wall using limestone blocks.

Standard engineering details can significantly reduce the cost of engineering for common structures such as a brick fence and provide the documentation in a short time frame. Engineering Plans Australia offers the convenience to order structural engineering details online which in most cases can be provided within 24 hours in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Approvals Process

In preparing a development application you may need to engage an architect or a building designer to prepare your plans. Your team may include the expertise of specialists, depending on your site and your proposal, such as a land surveyor and a civil or structural engineer.

The first step is to produce a concept design that shows the front, side and rear elevations, natural ground levels, existing vs proposed levels and the dimensions for the brick wall.

Once a concept design or sketch is developed, it is important to obtain advice from the relevant local government authority in relation to development approval and the building permit application.

In most circumstances a site feature survey produced by a Licensed Land Surveyor will also be required. Depending on the requirements, the local council may require a Development Application and the appointment of a Land Surveyor is necessary to prepare a Contour or Topographic Survey of your property. The existing site information will be recorded on the site plan and will show existing features and structures within and adjacent to a parcel of land and allows the structural engineer, architect or builder to assess the site and produce design and construction documentation. For projects located in Adelaide information in relation to development approvals and building permits can be obtained from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Project located in Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney will follow a similar which guidelines specific to each state and in some cases the local government authority.

Structural Engineering Process

At Engineering Plans Australia, we have made the structural engineering and certification process easy by standardising the engineering details. Our online store contains standard engineering details that can be purchased in minutes. With every new project, we have a quality assurance process in place to ensure that the standard engineering detail is suitable for the particular location and wind loading. If the proposed brick screen wall is to be constructed on top of a retaining structure such as a limestone retaining wall, it will be necessary to undertake a retaining wall inspection and to obtain structural engineering certification to state the the existing retaining wall is structurally adequate.

As soil conditions vary widely across Australia, a geotechnical report or soil classification should be obtained in accordance with AS2870 Residential Slabs and footings.

Most screen walls will have either square piers or attached piers and the spacing will depend on the wall weight and the particular wind classification (piers assist with the structural integrity of the brick wall). The following is a sample structural engineering detail for a typical brick screen wall with square piers and visually permeable infill on a sand site:

Most local government authorities will require a site classification report in accordance with AS2870 and a compaction test certificate. If the proposed brick wall is to be constructed on a reactive clay site, the footings will need to be sized appropriately and this process is carried out on case by case basis. Most common problems associated with footings on reactive clay sites usually result from shrinkage caused by seasonal moisture changes in the reactive soil. Clay soils can have a higher incidence of cracking in brickwork. To ensure that a structure constructed in a clay soil performs adequately, the structural engineering will assess the soil properties from the geotechnical report and design the footings and steel reinforcement for that particular site and structure. The footing depth and width will depend on the soil classification. Typically for a class M site (medium soil reactivity) the footing depth will be approximate 600mm deep. But for a class S site the strip footing can be reduced to 400mm deep or for a class A the strip footing can be reduced to 300mm deep. The pad footing dimensions at pier locations will depend on the wind loading for the particular site.

Projects in Brisbane will require certification from a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) while project in Melbourne will require design certification from a Registered Building Practitioner Victoria (Certificate of Compliance for Proposed Building Work - Regulation 126)

Another important consideration in the suitability of trees when they are planted close to brick walls. The possibility that their root systems causing structural damage may need to include additional engineering measures such as tree root barriers.

Construction Process

How much does it cost to build a brick screen wall or fence in Australia? The answer will depend on the choices of the materials and the height of the wall. The cost of bricks and limestone blocks will vary across different Australian regions. In reality, there are endless design options for a brick fence and each project is tailored to suit the needs of the home owner and property. Typically for a class M site the footing depth will be approximate 600mm deep, for a class S site the strip footing can be reduced to 400mm deep and for a class A the strip footing will generally be 300mm deep. A site specific soil classification will assist in determining the footing depth and ensure an economical design is produced. As a guide, the cost for construction will vary between $500 to $1500 per metre.

Our typical structural engineering fees for certified drawings for brick fence start at $198 (this fee does not include the Regulation 126 certificate of compliance for projects in Melbourne or Form 15 - Compliance certificate for building design or specification for projects in Brisbane).

It is important that the construction work is undertaken by an experienced contractor with appropriate insurances and in accordance with the structural engineering documentation & building permit conditions. When building a new brick screen wall, it may be desirable to have a qualified structural engineer to carry out inspections during critical stages of construction, including:

  • compaction testing and provision of a compaction test certificate;

  • just after the steel reinforcement has been installed it is best to have an engineer confirm via a written report that the steel reinforcement has been laid according to the structural engineering specification;

  • after all construction works have been completed.

It is important to consider the requirements of the National Construction Code if building within a coastal environment as additional requirements will apply in relation to mortar specification and corrosion projection for steel components. These considerations will ensure maximum durability for masonry brick wall or fence.

How EPA Works:

Step 1: Commission an architect to produce architectural plans for the proposed brick fence;

Step 2: Consult with the relevant local government authority in relation to the building permit application;

Step 3: Complete the site contact form on our website where you can also upload your site plan and architectural drawings;

Step 4: One of our structural engineers will review the documentation provided and confirm the cost for the engineering certification and advise if additional documentation is required;

Step 5: Order the standard structural engineering drawings online and receive your certified structural engineering drawings within 48 hours ready for building permit submission.

A brick fence can be a wonderful addition to a property and there are a wide range of options and materials available for constructing the fence. While clay brick and limestone blocks screen walls are common, we are also seeing increased popularity with concrete blocks fences. In some situations the brick fence can be integrated with a brick or limestone retaining wall. If you have any questions regarding a proposed brick fence or other structural engineering requirements, get in touch with us to discuss your requirements with one of our structural engineers and to obtain a free quote.

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