dwelling house character brisbane

Brisbane Character House

If you go to a town planner with any pre-war dwelling house in the Traditional Building Character Overlay and ask if it can be demolished the answer is going to be a strong no 98% of the time.

(If your house is not within an overlay which protects traditional character then please speak with your building certifier as this demolition will not likely require a development permit)


The community has been vocal for several decades about the need to retain Queenslander homes built prior to 1947 and the value they bring to the cultural fabric of Brisbane. Council has therefore been increasing protective measures through planning legislation to ensure their retention and enhancement.


The current planning scheme, Brisbane City Plan 2014 utilises the Traditional Building Character overlay as the legislative mechanism to protect pre-war housing.


There are only a few justifications for removing a house within this overlay area:

  • Clearly demonstrate that the house was not built prior to 1947
  • The house is substantially altered
  • The house does not have the appearance of being constructed in 1946 or earlier
  • An engineer has certified that the house is not structurally sound and not reasonable capable of being made structurally sound.
  • If the house is demolished it will not result in the loss of traditional building character
  • Is in a section of the street within the Traditional Building Character overlay that has no traditional building character


Was your house built prior to 1947?

There are a number of ways you can determine the age of your home which include (but not limited to):

  • Compare 1946 aerial mapping with current day aerial mapping to determine if the roof line on the site in 1946 was consistent with current roofline, taking note of any extensions and possible home relocations.
  • Real estate records accurately note the circa construction date of most homes.
  • Property professionals with character house experience can assist
  • Heritage architects can undertake historical research



Has the house been substantially altered?

The term substantially is not entirely prescriptive and therefore open to some interpretation however if you look at the home and it would be impossible to rectify the home to its pre-war state then Council will support its removal. By way of example, Urban Planners Queensland obtained approval for demolition of a pre-war dwelling in the traditional building character overlay as the house had been renovated in a way that meant the core of the traditional home would need to be completely rebuilt as the original external had been removed and bricked in with only the original roof remaining.



Does the house appear as a pre-1947 constructed home?

In some cases, the pre-war house has been ‘butchered’ in the decades following its construction to meet the needs and, or aesthetics of the time. These houses may have seen renovations to their roof lines, building materials and when viewed from the street has no appearance of being an original Queenslander or other pre-war house style.



Certification from an engineer that the house is structurally unsound.

This justification item is explanatory but still leaves a little room for interpretation. Whilst any engineer can state the house is not structurally sound, Council will specifically require a Registered Practicing Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) provide a written list of all items that make the house structurally unsound. A builder may then need to cost these items and a determination will be made as to whether the costs to make the home structurally sound are unreasonable. No dollar figure is provided within the acceptable outcomes of the code.


If demolished will the house result in the loss of traditional building character?

If you haven’t complied with any of the above or below criteria, then you will need a good heritage architect or heritage consultant to provide a supportive opinion to utilise this justification point.


Is the house in a section of the street that has no traditional character?

In some cases, your house may be in a long street where one end is full of intact character houses whilst your house is on the end with 3 storey brick 6-packs and post-war buildings. If you want to utilise this justification criteria for demolition of your house, please be aware that this is worded as “no traditional character”, one other intact pre-war dwelling house in your ‘section of the street’ analysis would take you from no traditional character to some traditional character.




Please note: Some neighbourhood plan areas, being on a corner lot or the house having been built prior to 1900 can also impose additional design parameters and considerations when it comes to demolition applications.


If you are working with traditional Queenslander home, you need to read this.

Brisbane City Council  released the Traditional Housing: Alterations and Extensions Design Guide (in 2020). The guide promotes the retention of traditional character being pre-1947 houses and offers up detailed advice on how to ensure your development complements the existing streetscape.


Council have identified 4 key areas for homeowners and designers to consider:

  • Development should complement existing character of the street.
  • Enhance and retain original details of the home.
  • Do not impact your neighbours negatively.
  • Design your home to adapt to the needs of the future.


The guide provides information on how to identify which traditional housing style your home falls into, and how to undertake design which supports these housing styles, as well as accommodating for your needs. Additionally, it goes into extensive detail about the materials, decorations and features commonly found on traditional homes. This is fantastic if you’re looking to retain or match original details from your house.

A strong theme in the guide is front gardens. If you’re looking to embrace the traditional streetscape in your home, front gardens are a great way to go. While gardens are often used for aesthetic purposes, they can also provide many functional benefits and alternatives to hard infrastructure which may otherwise compromise the appearance of your home. Some of their other benefits include:

  • Natural noise barriers
  • Shading
  • Privacy
  • Filter air pollutants


If ever unsure about designing in character areas, please contact your private town planner.



Landscape Works in the TBC overlay

In accordance with the Building Work definition in the Planning Act 2016, any ‘works’ to a building in the TBC overlay that includes building, repair and / or alteration, whether or not requiring a building approval, will trigger City Plan 2014 assessment if not prescribed accepted development.

• For works such as retaining walls at the front of a TBC building (including retaining walls) an exemption certificate may be considered.

Replacing external cladding on a pre-47 house in Traditional building character

Brisbane City Plan 2014 permits the demolition of external features forming part of the building constructed in 1946 or before, where the demolition enables replacement of the feature with new features of the same style and appearance consistent with traditional building character.

• External cladding is not considered an external feature.

• Removing external cladding is partial demolition and triggers a development application.

• Replacing external cladding that has been accidentally damaged or destroyed to its original condition is prescribed accepted development.

Balustrade changes in the Traditional building character overlay / Pre-1911 overlay

• Demolition of an external stair of a building is prescribed accepted development.

• Filling in the balustrade gap to a dwelling in the TBC overlay does trigger a development application.

• In accordance with Building Work definition in the Planning Act 2016, any ‘works’ to a building in the TBC overlay that includes building, repair and / or alteration whether or not requiring a building approval will trigger assessment if not prescribed accepted development.

• If reinstating the balustrade to reflect the existing balustrade an exemption certificate may be considered.

Enclosed extensions at the rear of a house within the Traditional building character overlay

• An enclosed extension at the rear of a dwelling house where preceded by lawful demolition as either accepted development or approved in accordance with the Traditional building character (demolition) code is prescribed accepted development.

• Where on a lot with more than one frontage, the rear of the building is that part of the site that is behind the building relative to the primary street frontage.

• In accordance with the City Plan 2014 a primary street frontage is defined as ‘the street frontage that is most commonly addressed by other buildings in the block’.

Demolishing the rear lean on a pre-1911 dwelling by enclosing a wall or feature

• Demolition of an internal wall or feature of a pre-1911 dwelling in the Traditional building character overlay / Pre-1911 dwelling overlay is prescribed accepted development.

• Building work to enclose an external wall o