Free NCC – Just the beginning of a changing industry

Free NCC – Just the beginning of a changing industry

The recent move by the federal government to make the 2015 NCC free to access is just one of many reform agendas that aim to be achieved by 2019. It is estimated that achieving these outcomes will contribute to an additional $1.1 billion per year in productivity, as the Australian Building Codes Board embarks on its ambitious three-year plan.
Author: Lewis Flatt of Cap-It-All Building Inspections Perth – Servicing the Perth Metro Area
Shift to a three-year amendment cycle
Currently the NCC is released annually. The last annual version of the NCC is to be released in 2016, with the 2019 NCC to be the first three-year amendment. It is the 2019 amendment which is the principal target for the Australian Building Codes Board to achieve its desired outcomes.

Greater Focus on Performance requirements
Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions are often met by builders as these are clearly outlined within the National Construction Code. However, many alternative solutions exist in meeting the performance requirements of the NCC. Greater awareness is required by builders and industry practitioners alike in explaining different methods of meeting the performance requirements, as this will encourage greater innovation and flexibility in building. The implementation of this goal will obviously take some time as the mindset will need to change from both builders and regulatory authorities in becoming more accepting of the use of new and innovative materials and practices.

Greater Education
To meet performance requirements and understand the processes in which they will be approved, greater education will be required throughout the industry. Often the primary reason that building professionals are reluctant to propose alternative solutions when designing a build, is the lack of clarity and explanation in what is required to meet a performance requirement. The Australian Building Codes Board intends to provide more publications to industry associations, as well as further information via net-based mediums such as YouTube. By raising greater awareness of our industry and giving greater access of code to practitioners, more productive and innovative outcomes can be met. The NCC will also be reviewed and reformatted to become more internet friendly.

Reduction of state & council based code
Another issue highlighted by the ABCB in using alternative solutions for the NCC is the discrepancy between state & federal legislation, as well as imposed building regulation from local council. Consolidating codes and the removal of unnecessary codes so that builders and practitioners have a ‘one-stop shop’ for codes and standards is deemed essential to ensure that building professionals are educated and confident in proceeding to implement alternative solutions to buildings. Some clauses within the NCC may be removed between now and 2019, whilst others may be changed to reflect more topical information and growing technologies, such as meeting the requirements of energy efficiency. The co-operation of both state and local government is required in achieving this outcome, as productivity will almost certainly rise with the limitation of standards set outside of the NCC.

Review of regulation & acceptable construction practices
The NCC may reference Australian Standards to reach acceptable construction practices of Volume Two. These practices will be reviewed to ensure that the content contained within the standards are still applicable, and that where Australian Standards are referenced, a clear and concise explanation is provided.

Introduction of other codes
The plumbing code was introduced as part of the NCC in 2011. Gas fitting, telecommunications and electrical codes have been suggested as future additions as part of the code, with cross-referencing provided to areas that will be applicable to builders.

Greater consultation
Although the NCC and many other publications are free to access, registration is still required. There are two very important reasons that the Australian Building Codes Board have taken this step:

  • To build up a list of personnel that can be contacted when consultation has begun regarding that efficiency of the code. This will allow small builders and professionals that may have been left out in the past to have greater say in the progression of the building industry.
  • To notify personnel of amendments to building codes, legislation, or Australian Standards. Often it is not feasible for a building professional to keep up-to-date with all relevant changes within the building industry, and this measure will minimise the risk of non-compliant work or practices being undertaken.  

As a building inspector I identify areas of non-compliance in buildings with regular occurrence, and I hope that the latest reforms will include quality assurance measures that can be implemented by builders to sub-contractors.

We believe that current contracts, standards and legislation are still open for dispute, and that if the builder was to provide greater clarity in how the performance requirements were achieved then liability could be passed to the sub-contractor via a sub-contract agreement.

Unfortunately many sub-contract agreements are more general in nature, and as such the sub-contractor does not actually research or receive clarification on the exact processes required for them to comply with the relevant building regulations.

In addition to this, many supervisors are unaware of the areas that they should inspect to ensure that the sub-contractors work is compliant with the specifications. It is this breakdown at ground level that I believe is the main cause of building defects in the new-build sector.

I think the most effective outcome to increase compliance in building would be the ability to separate building design measures and building compliance measures. This could be done in a tick-box method and sent to the various professionals involved.

Cap-It-All building inspections will continue to play a part in building industry roundtable discussions, as well as using our ties within the industry to promote positive change within the building process. To view our services or book an inspection, please visit our Cap-It-All Building Inspections Perth website.

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