Although the 2022 edition of the National Construction Code is still at draft stage, one of the biggest changes is already confirmed: a new look with improved useability. This will apply across all three volumes of the NCC: Volume 1 (Class 2 to 9 buildings); Volume 2 (Class 1 and 10 buildings); and Volume 3 (plumbing and drainage).
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) sees this as a fundamental step in bringing the NCC in line with modern technology and preparing it for the future. Industry groups were consulted to select the best approach, and have supported the raft of changes that include better digital access to the code, a more consistent “SPTC” referencing system and clause structure, and machine readability.
According to Kieran O’Donnell, Senior Project Officer at the ABCB, there were two reasons for the changes.
“The first is about improving the readability and user-friendliness of the code, especially for new users,” says O’Donnell. “A consistent volume structure means only learning one structure, rather than three different ones across the three NCC volumes. The Section-Part-Type-Clause (SPTC) numbering system provides further consistency and predictability because every clause number throughout the code can be read and interpreted the same way. It also more accurately reflects the clause’s location within the structure as well as its use.
“The second reason is about digitisation. A consistent volume structure and numbering system enables the online version of NCC to be more than just a static PDF. A fully functional NCC Online provides many new capabilities including improved search, personalised filtering of content, presentation in a range of digital formats, and integration with commonly used industry software and systems. Additionally, the changes enable software developers to build NCC content into their platforms (like CAD and BIM systems). This will be a game-changer for the industry which will lead to greater compliance with the code and even higher quality buildings.”
AIRAH’s recent Big Data and Analytics Forum highlighted the ways in which data is being exploited in buildings not only for maintenance and repair, but also right up and down the supply chain – from procurement to ongoing sales and product development. It will be vital for codes and standards to plug into these systems.
Construction by numbers
One of the keys to this is the SPTC numbering system.
“SPTC just means Section-Part-Type-Clause,” says O’Donnell. “It may sound complicated, but really it’s just a way of writing clause numbers that enables you to tell a lot about a clause based on only its number.
“For example, B1P2: the ‘B1’ tells me the clause is in Part B1, ‘P’ tells me it is a Performance Requirement, and ‘2’ tells me it’s the second Performance Requirement. That’s a lot of information to gain from reading only a clause’s number, without reading its title or content.
“Aside from useability, the importance of SPTC is that it is machine readable and consistent, which is important for the functionality of NCC Online. It’s also important to note that with a change like this, we understand it might take time for people already familiar with the previous numbering system. So the old clause numbers are still visible to the right of the clause title.”
As well as the new code enabling better integration with modern software systems, O’Donnell says it will be better for humans too.
“Overall, a more functional and useable NCC means more users, better understanding of the code, increased compliance and, ultimately, better building and plumbing outcomes.”
The ABCB has prepared a range of resources to better explain improved useability project, and the new approach in NCC 2022.