The National Construction Code (NCC) has experienced significant reform as part of an agreement between federal and state ministers, commencing 1 May 2015. The changes are expected to lead to greater consistency in building regulations across states and territories.
Key changes include new verification methods to demonstrate compliance using performance-based requirements for ‘structural reliability’ and ‘weather proofing’. These changes are part of a move towards more alternate solutions, which provide a flexible approach to achieving compliance. Many qualitative terms have also been replaced with quantitative terms that can be objectively measured and standardised across the industry.
The first verification method provides minimum resistance targets for structural components and connections, using a quantified reliability index. This provides engineers with an alterative solution to existing deemed-to-satisfy conditions, which use the Limit State Design method. A handbook has been developed to help engineers use this verification method to achieve structural reliability compliance using performance-based requirements.
The second verification method is focused on water penetration through external walls. The new weatherproofing verification uses a risk assessment methodology to achieve a compliance score, using two test methods. The application of these test methods vary, depending on the classification of the external wall.
While deemed-to-satisfy provisions are still available in many cases, these new verification methods provide industry with an opportunity to develop innovative and cost-effective designs that achieve full compliance using performance-based requirements.
Another major change to the NCC relates to sprinkler protection provisions for residential aged care facilities. Following research that suggests sprinkler systems play a significant role in preventing fires, the provisions have been expanded to include Class 3 and Class 9a residential buildings. It is hoped that these provisions will reduce the risk of fire in residential aged care facilities throughout Australia.
From 2015 onwards, the NCC will be available online for free and the frequency of changes will be reduced from once a year to once every three years. This change has been welcomed by the industry, which has spent years advocating for improved access to the NCC and Building Code of Australia (BCA). Previously, access to the NCC was at a cost of $400 per year.
The NCC provides model regulations for buildings and plumbing and is given effect through state and territory legislation. It sets minimum requirements for the design, construction and performance of buildings throughout Australia.