New Building Act will introduce one single permit for construction

The new Building Act will enter into force on 1 January 2025 and replace the Land Use and Building Act currently in force for the parts concerning construction. In the Land Use and Building Act in force, building permits are divided into action permit and building permit. With the new Building Act, the different permits will be combined into one building permit, and the threshold for having to apply for a permit will become higher. 

The amendment aims to simplify the permit process

The purpose of the single permit is to make the permit process easier so that in borderline cases, there is no need to consider which one of the two permits should be applied. The new name will make it clearer that constructing other constructions than buildings is also subject to a permit. The new system and its scope of application can affect plans to build new buildings and structures but also plans to expand existing buildings or to carry out extensive repairs.

The building permit will be linked to the definition of a construction

In the Land Use and Building Act, the definition of a building has been wide and open, which has resulted in a situation where structures that in everyday language are not considered buildings, such as cranes, telecommunications masts and wind turbines, can be considered buildings from a legal perspective. With the new Building Act, the definition of a building will become narrower and mean a separate, fixed structure that has its own entrance and that includes a roofed space separated by walls.

In the new Building Act, however, the requirement of a building permit is linked to the new concept of a construction, which is wider than the concept of a building. According to the new Building Act, a construction means a building or structure that can affect the use of the surrounding areas and the implementation of which requires that essential technical requirements are accounted for as well as an area to be built for special activities that affect the use of the surrounding areas.

Building permit for constructing a new construction

Constructing a new construction requires a building permit if the construction is one of the buildings or structures defined in more detail in the Building Act, such as a residential building, some other type of building that is at least 30 square metres in size, a borehole, or a mast or smokestack that is at least 30 metres high. The list of specifically mentioned new constructions is, however, not exhaustive. Constructing a new construction requires a permit also if the construction has more than minor impact on the use of the areas, city image, landscape, cultural heritage or environmental aspects, if the construction process requires regulatory control to ensure that the essential technical specifications are implemented or if the building control must supervise construction process for the sake of public interest.

A building permit is also required for repairing and constructing existing buildings

In addition to new constructions, many types of repair and construction works relating to existing buildings require a building permit. A building permit is still required for repair and construction works that are comparable to constructing a building as well as for expanding a building and increasing the area that counts as floor area. Pursuant to the legislative materials, the purpose has not been to change the earlier interpretation concerning repair and modification works, but it will also in future be essential for the interpretation whether the permitted floor area to be constructed will increase. If the floor area increases, the question is of expansion. Modification works, on the other hand, mean repairing an existing building without changing the area that counts as floor area.

When repairing a construction, a building permit is also required if the repair to a more than minor extent concerns removing a health hazard observed in the construction area, if a supporting structure in the construction area has been damaged, if the repair measures can compromise the healthiness or safety of the construction or if the repair has significant impact on the city image, landscape or cultural heritage. In addition, a building permit is required for repairs that concern the essential characteristics of the construction. Furthermore, section 42(3) of the new Building Act provides for certain situations where repairs always require a building permit. Examples of these situations include repair and modification works on the building envelope or technical systems improving the energy efficiency, and repairs where the purpose of use of the building or part of it will change essentially.

Amendments to the Act are already being planned

In accordance with the current government programme, certain parts of the Building Act are to be amended before the Act enters into force. The draft government proposal was being circulated for comments in early 2024, and the Government intends to submit the proposal for amending the Building Act to Parliament in September 2024.

Some of the most important amendments being planned are postponing the entry into force of the guaranteed processing time of three months for building permits, the carbon footprint calculation of buildings and the building permit based on building information modelling so that they would not enter into force until 1 January 2026. However, the only amendments planned in the section concerning the constructions that require a building permit relate to the clarification on temporary event constructions, and the scope of application of the new building permit system will thus not be amended more extensively. The aim is to clarify the legislation so that temporary structures relating to events would not be subject to a permit in the same way as public structures.