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Site and Venue design
Site and Venue design


(Updated 15 December 2017)

The starting point for a safe event and a safe workplace is a considered layout, suitable for the intended use of the space. Whether it is the temporary modification of an existing entertainment building to suit an event or the use of a greenfield site, a wide range of things must be considered. At the same time this information can be used to reverse engineer an event to fit a specific site or building.

18.1 Referenced documents:

WHS Regulation 2011

National Construction Code 2016 (NCC) 2016

AS1428 – Design for access and mobility

AS3745 – Planning for emergencies in facilities

Food Safety – Standard 3.2.3 Food Premises and Equipment

NSW – Planning For Entertainment Guidelines October 2009


Victoria – Occupancy Permits for Places of Public Entertainment July 2013

Tasmania Building Act 2016.

SA – Entertainment Venue Licence

WA – Guidelines on the Application of the Health (Public Buildings) Regulations 1992



18.2 Definitions

18.2.1 Class 9: a building of a public nature—

Class 9b — an assembly building, including a trade workshop, laboratory or the like in a primary or secondary school, but excluding any other parts of the building that are of another Class;

18.2.2 Assembly building

means a building where people may assemble for—

  • civic, theatrical, social, political or religious purposes including a library, theatre, public hall or place of worship; or
  • entertainment, recreational or sporting purposes including—
    1. a discotheque, nightclub or a bar area of a hotel or motel providing live entertainment or containing a dance floor; or
    2. a cinema; or
    3. a sports stadium, sporting or other club; or

18.2.3 WHS Act

8 Meaning of “workplace”

  • A workplace is a place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work.
  • In this section, place includes:
    1. a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other mobile structure, and
    2. any waters and any installation on land, on the bed of any waters or floating on any waters.

20 Duty of persons conducting businesses or undertakings involving management or control of workplaces

  • In this section, person with management or control of a workplace means a person conducting a business or undertaking to the extent that the business or undertaking involves the management or control, in whole or in part, of the workplace but does not include:
    1. the occupier of a residence, unless the residence is occupied for the purposes of, or as part of, the conduct of a business or undertaking, or
    2. a prescribed person.
  • The person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace, the means of entering and exiting the workplace and anything arising from the workplace are without risks to the health and safety of any person.

18.2.4 WHS Regulation

person with management or control of a workplace has the same meaning as it has in section 20 of the Act.

41 Duty to provide and maintain adequate and accessible facilities
1) A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the provision of adequate facilities for workers, including toilets, drinking water, washing facilities and eating facilities.
2) The person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the facilities provided under subclause (1) are maintained so as to be:
a) in good working order, and
b) clean, safe and accessible.
3) For the purposes of this clause, a person conducting a business or undertaking must have regard to all relevant matters, including the following:
a) the nature of the work being carried out at the workplace,
b) the nature of the hazards at the workplace,
c) the size, location and nature of the workplace,
d) the number and composition of the workers at the workplace

18.3 Venue Capacity

In short, there are three core elements that will determine the capacity of a venue or area to be used for entertainment or events.

18.3.1 Floorspace

First of all there is the useable floorspace. This is the accessible area for the general public and calculated in square metres – m². From the overall space you need to subtract areas used for bars, kitchens, storage, offices, stages, front of house control, toilets, merchandise, etc. Also incorporate space for wheelchair seating areas which must also allow for a companion seat, for details see below. You then need to look at Table D1.13 in the NCC Building Code of Australia to see how many square metres per person you need to allocate for the intended purpose. That will give you the maximum capacity based on floorspace.

Depending on the use of the building or the area, there must be a consideration for milling space before and after the entertainment event. The type of event and audience demographic will dictate requirements in more detail. See the NSW section below for some guidelines.

18.3.2 Egress

The next step is working out how much egress is available from the event space because that may limit your capacity. Existing venues will have their capacity set out as part of their occupancy certificate, for ‘temporary’ venues the information is harder to find and may be subject to State or even Council regulations. The dimensions of exit doors and the aggregate width of the exit doors is set out in Section D1.6.

Take the figure based on the floorspace and calculate the required number of exits and the aggregate width. Then compare that to the available exits in existing buildings that are not normally event or entertainment venues. Section D1.4 and D1.5 set out the maximum distance people may travel to reach an exit and the distance between alternative exits. These distances need to be incorporated in calculations. If the available exits are less than required you will have to adjust the capacity to the available exits. These calculations will give some guidance what could be acceptable but it is important to confirm with the local authorities what their requirements are.

Also note D1.10 (f): In a Class 9b building containing an auditorium which accommodates more than 500 persons, not more than 2/3 of the required width of exits must be located in the main entrance foyer.

18.3.3 Facilities

The final restriction of the use of a space is based on available toilet facilities. The requirements are set out in the NCC Building Code Table F2.3 – Sanitary Facilities. There are differences between the use of the space, for instance as an auditorium or as a functions space, so make sure the correct section of the table is applied. Also bear in mind that these are the minimum requirements, depending on the type of event it may be advisable to increase the number of toilets to reduce the risk of long queues.

The calculations are based on the capacity derived from Floorspace and Egress and must be strictly 50/50 male and female even if the demographic may be quite different.

Accessible (wheelchair) toilets must be provided as a minimum at 50% of the toilet groups for the venue. Accessible toilets must have tactile and braille signage.

18.4 Venue specifics

All the details and specific requirements for a Class 9b building can be found in Part H1 of the NCC BCA.

18.4.1 Seating Area

H1.7 Aisle lights

In every enclosed Class 9b building, where in any part of the auditorium, the general lighting is dimmed or extinguished during public occupation and the floor is stepped or is inclined at a slope steeper than 1 in 12, aisle lights must be provided to illuminate the full length of the aisle and tread of each step.

18.5 Disability Access

All calculations must incorporate access and facilities for people with disabilities and people in wheelchairs. Part D3 in the NCC Building Code outlines all the minimum requirements.

18.5.1 Floorspace

In terms of floorspace, where fixed seating is provided in a Class 9b assembly building, wheelchair seating spaces complying with AS 1428.1 must be provided in accordance with the requirements set-out in NCC Building Code Table D3.9. Although the NCC only mentions fixed seating, it is a good guideline for GA or other types of events too.

18.5.2 Egress

Careful consideration must be given to access and egress from the event or entertainment venue. If there are restrictions in terms of emergency egress, these must be addressed in the Emergency Management plan. In November 2010, the Australian Standard AS 3745 – Planning for emergencies in facilities recommended that occupants with disability requiring assistance to evacuate in an emergency are equipped with a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) as part of the overall emergency plan. Your organisation should review this suggestion on a regular basis to determine any specific evacuation requirements. The relevant section (4.2.11) Occupants and visitors with a disability in summary says:

  • When developing emergency response procedures, consideration shall be given to general public and visitors who will need help.
  • Details are to be kept where the chief warden exercises control.
  • Suitable strategies should be discussed with organisations representing people with disabilities
  • Information on the PEEP should be given to people responsible for implementing it such as area wardens.

Though there is an evacuation standard in place, there is limited information regarding people with disability.
Recommended reading:

Can a person using a wheelchair use the lift during a fire?
The answer to this question is “No”. Our local brigade advises that the lift well is generally not fire rated and is a terrible place to be caught in an emergency.

18.5.3 Accessible Toilets

The requirements for accessible toilets are detailed in NCC BCA Part F2.4

18.5.4 Parking spaces

Table D3.5 sets out the requirements for parking spaces for people with disabilities:

Class of building to which the carpark or carparking area is associated Number of accessible carparking spaces required
Class 9b

Other assembly building—

(i) up to 1000 carparking spaces; and


(ii) for each additional 100 carparking spaces or part thereof in excess of 1000 carparking spaces.



1 space for every 50 carparking spaces or part thereof.


1 space.

18.5.5 Signage

In a building required to be accessible, all Class 9b buildings are, braille and tactile signage must identify sanitary facilities and exit doors. All details are set out in NVV BCA Table D3.6.

18.6 Emergency Planning

Part of planning a temporary event or entertainment venue must be preparing for emergencies, in this day and age more than ever. Please look at Chapter 4 – Emergency Planning.

18.7 Food Safety

Many, if not all, event have a requirement to provide food and beverages, either for purchase of as part of the event. Either way, a few things need to be considered when designing a temporary site.

18.7.1 Kitchen area

NCC BCA stipulates an area of 10m² per person working in the area.

18.7.2 Washing Facilities

In areas where food is handled other than packaged food, the provision of hand washings facilities separate from general washing-up facilities. Review the need for any additional equipment such as food preparation sinks to be installed to meet the requirements of the standards — this is particularly important if a dedicated sink is to be used for thawing foods, such as raw chickens, under cold running water. To prevent cross-contamination, separate sinks for washing ready-to-eat salads and vegetables should be available.

18.7.3 Storage

Chilled, hot and dry goods storage space for ingredients, raw materials and final products (such as plated meals, prepared sandwiches or packaged products awaiting dispatch)

18.7.4 Waste disposal

Storage of garbage and recyclable matter

Food preparation areas must have facilities for the storage of garbage and recyclable matter that:

  • adequately contain the volume and type of garbage and recyclable matter on the food premises;
  • enclose the garbage or recyclable matter, if this is necessary to keep pests and animals away from it; and
  • are designed and constructed so that they may be easily and effectively cleaned.

18.7.5 Fire Extinguishers

In kitchen areas where deep fryers or open flame is used in the preparation of food, additional and specialist fire extinguishers may be required. Also see Chapter 5 – Fire Safety.

18.8      NSW Appendix to NCC BCA

The appendix for Class 9b buildings in NSW is quite extensive and provides guidance in many areas that could be applied in other States and Territories too.

NSW A1.1 Definitions

Aisle means a walkway at the end of rows of seating, not being continental seating, leading to a cross-over or to an egress doorway.

Cross-over in relation to an entertainment venue or temporary structure, means a walkway

between aisles or between an aisle and an egress doorway.

Row means a row of seating—

(a) between a wall or other barrier and an aisle; or

(b) between 2 aisles.

Some of the important sections are:

18.1.1.a    NSW H101.11.1 Number of seats

Subject to NSW H101.11.5, where seating is arranged in rows, the maximum of seats in each row must not exceed—

  • 8 where there is an aisle at one end only of the row; or
  • l6 where there are aisles on both ends of the row.

18.1.1.b   NSW H101.11.2 Chairs used for seating

Chairs used for seating must—

  • where they have arms, be at least 500 mm from centre to centre; and
  • where they do not have arms, be at least 450 mm from centre to centre; and
  • have a minimum lateral clearance of at least 300 mm between—
    • the front of each chair and the back of the chair in front; or
    • if a guardrail is provided in front of the chairs, between the front of each chair and the guardrail; and
  • have a distance of at least 950 mm between the back of each chair and the back of the chair in front.

18.1.1.c    NSW H101.11.3 Chairs in auditoriums—Level floors

Chairs in an auditorium that has a level floor must be—

  • securely fastened to the floor; or
  • secured together in groups of not less than 4 and not more than 16.

18.1.1.d   NSW H101.11.6 Aisles and cross-overs

Where aisles and cross-overs are provided—

(a) each aisle must have a width of at least 1000 mm and each cross-over must have a width of at least 1500 mm; and

(b) the floor of each aisle must not have a grade of more than 1 in 8 at any part; and

(c) if there is a step from a row to an aisle or from a landing to an aisle, the step must not project into the aisle.

18.1.1.e    NSW H101.20.1 Lighting switches

  • Any switch controlling the lighting system must not be accessible.
  • Where, during normal use, general lighting may be dimmed or switched off, an override switch to switch on all the general lighting instantaneously must be installed in the auditorium in a position accessible to management.

18.1.1.f     NSW H101.3 Foyer space

Where an entertainment venue is used principally for the purpose of—

(a)exhibiting films; or

(b)conducting live stage productions,

foyer space (excluding stairways and concession areas) must be provided on the basis of at least 0.25 m2 for each person that the auditorium accommodates.


15/12/2017 – Added  NSW definitions of Aisles & Cross-over.  Added NSW minimum widths for aisles and cross-overs.