Public Comment

Building Confidence reforms open for comment

The Australia Building Codes Board (ABCB) is has released three discussion papers on responses to the Building Confidence Report (BCR), and is looking for input until February 28.

The BCR was published in 2018 and identified significant problems with the compliance and enforcement systems for Australia’s building and construction industry. In response, the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) developed a roadmap for reform. The work now being undertaken by the ABCB is part of those reforms.

There are three consultations now open.

Mandatory inspections

The BCR identified significant differences across jurisdictions in the number of inspections required and the notification stages. This ranges from no mandatory inspections to very few inspections for domestic buildings. For commercial buildings, many jurisdictions rely on the statutory building surveyor to determine what inspections are appropriate. This makes it difficult for regulators to know what level of oversight is occurring, whether it is adequate and if National Construction Code (NCC) compliance is being achieved.

To address this, it is proposed that each jurisdiction require mandatory onsite inspections of building work at identified notification stages.

This discussion paper proposes a draft model process that prescribes an approach for minimum inspections proportionate to building complexity (risk). The risk-based approach would also determine additional inspection stages such as those relating to specific performance solutions or complex commercial buildings. The draft model details the proposed approach and how it is anticipated to work in practice.

Building design acceptance

The BCR recommended that there be a statutory duty on design practitioners to prepare documentation that demonstrates compliance with the NCC. It also recommended a more robust approach to third-party review of designs, and to the documentation and approval of performance solutions and design variations.

In response to these recommendation, the BCR Implementation Team has developed a discussion paper to seek feedback on proposed reforms.

Independent third-party review

The BCR noted that building surveyors are not always competent to review and confirm compliance of all building design documentation, particularly for complex and high-risk fire safety and structural designs. In the case where the building surveyor doesn’t have the required level of competence, they may rely on the competence of the designer with no detailed review being undertaken. This introduces a significant risk of non-compliance.

It was recommended that each jurisdiction require genuine independent third-party review for specified components of designs and/or certain types of buildings. The BCR Implementation Team has developed a discussion paper outlining a draft model process.

It is expected that independent third party review would assist in ensuring designs are independently reviewed where the statutory building surveyor does not hold the necessary skills and experience for checking a component(s) of the design. The process would ensure design issues are identified and rectified earlier in the process, resulting in enhanced public confidence in the building industry.

To read and comment on these discussion papers, click here.

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