The NSW government has passed the Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019, marking a major step towards compulsory registration for engineers.
“The bill delivers on the New South Wales government’s promise to introduce a suite of new obligations on design and building practitioners to ensure that each step of construction is well documented and compliant,” said Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, when presenting the bill. He noted that it represented a key response to the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report.
“The Building Confidence report found that the accountabilities of different parties were unclear and there were insufficient controls on the accuracy of documentation. It identified that, particularly for design practitioners, there was a systemic failure to expressly require documentation to demonstrate compliance with the National Construction Code.”
The bill will initially apply to class 2 buildings – multistorey and multi-unit residential buildings. This will include mixed‑use buildings with a class 2 component, such as shopping centres or office blocks with residential apartments above the block.
But the government has acknowledged feedback from stakeholders that the bill should cover all building classes, and has confirmed that additional classes of buildings, such as hospitals, schools and other multistorey buildings, are intended to be included in the new scheme as part of the regulations over time.
Also in response to industry feedback, the bill was amended to cover regulated designs that relate to performance solutions. And the definition of “building elements” was widened to include mechanical, electrical and hydraulic services for buildings including systems such as air conditioning, hot water and stormwater services, lifts and car stackers. The regulations will prescribe exactly how these are included.
Registration laws will initially apply to professional engineers in five fields: mechanical, electrical, civil, structural, and fire safety engineering. Additional areas of engineering may be added via regulation.
The laws will apply to anyone wishing to provide professional engineering services, unless doing so under the direct supervision of an appropriately registered engineer, or if only applying a prescriptive design. It will become an offence for a person to falsely claim to be registered as an engineer unless they are registered and have the correct qualifications and level of competency.
The benchmark for registration will be defined in regulations that are expected to be finalised in 2020.
The new laws are expected to commence on July 1, 2021.
Accreditation schemes, such as AIRAH’s ARPEng program, will develop pathways for registration when the requirements are set.