The NSW Government recently announced its response to the Building Confidence Report that was commissioned in 2017, after independent experts found national problems in the construction industry. The Government is supporting the majority of recommendations in the report, including:
- building designers (including engineers) must declare that building plans will comply with the Building Code of Australia
- builders must declare that buildings have been built according to their plans
- building designers and builders must be registered for this purpose
- clarifying the law to ensure homeowners and owners corporations have the right to compensation where a building practitioner has been negligent.
A Building Commissioner will also be appointed to act as the consolidated building regulator in NSW, with responsibility for licensing and auditing practitioners. The Association of Accredited Certifiers (AAC) has been calling for reforms to the construction industry for some time, and welcomes the Government’s response.
In January, the AAC released an 8-point plan to improve accountability in the construction sector in NSW and provide better protection for owners and residents. The plan includes the following points:
- All professionals involved in the design, installation and approval of buildings must be accredited/registered and insured.
- All key personnel contributing to the construction of a building that are not accredited/registered must be licensed and be required to prove their competency at regular intervals.
- All documentation relating to the certification of a building should be in a standard form developed by industry and Government.
- It must be a mandatory requirement for all persons involved in the certification of any engineering design or technical aspect of construction (e.g. fire walls, acoustic walls, bushfire, etc) to issue a Certificate of a standard form and generated by a Government managed ‘Certificate Generator.’
- A comprehensive auditing program is required that takes a holistic approach to managing the performance and behaviour of not just Accredited Certifiers but all registered or licensed persons. This program needs to be developed by industry Associations under a watchful eye of the Government and include input from experts in the fields of insurance and risk management. Participation in this Auditing/Risk Management program should be compulsory and funded by a levy with the results provided direct to Government through a predetermined reporting mechanism.
- All parties involved in the building product supply chain need to be accountable for the products that they prescribe, specify, purchase and use in the construction of a building. It is critical to the longevity and structural soundness of buildings that the products and materials procured and used are ‘fit for purpose’ and comply with Australian building laws and standards.
- Amend the BASIX Scheme to allow Applicants to design buildings based on predetermined standards such as the size of water tanks, the thermal rating of wall and roof insulation, permissible window area sizes, and the like. Compliance with Deemed To Satisfy (DTS) provisions of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) should be made available to Applicants within the performance based framework of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) similar to Section J or part of that Section.
- Strengthen the administration of building regulation by bringing building regulation and control functions currently undertaken separately within Government into one portfolio reporting to one Minister.
The Government’s response goes some way to achieving these reforms, but questions have been raised about the lack of urgency around implementation and whether it will address the shortcomings outlined in the Building Confidence Report. Like many in the industry, MBC will be closely following the Government’s plans as they progress.