Building codes and approvals
However, if you are in the market for a new home, it may be useful to understand a little more about codes and why they are important.
What is the national building code?
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) sets out requirements to ensure a house is built to be structurally sound, will not allow the ingress of water or moisture, will be protected from the spread of fire, provides health and amenity, provides safe access to and within the building, and is energy efficient. It is a model code that state and territory governments adopt through their local legislation, although some states and territories have their own regional variations to the code to allow for cross-continental differences in the Australian building environment.
The BCA is referred to as a ‘performance based code’ that allows a building solution to be met using minimum provisions contained in the code or by the use of an ‘alternative solution’ that will satisfy the performance requirements stated in the code but may adopt an alternative method to satisfy those performance requirements.
In brief, the BCA addresses the following aspects of construction:
- site preparation to ensure that earthworks and drainage are carried out properly and that the risk from termites is minimised
- the structure to ensure proper construction of footings and floor slabs, brickwork and timber framing
- the fabric or roof and wall cladding
- fire safety
- wet areas, i.e. bathrooms, laundries and WCs
- room heights
- required facilities
- light, ventilation and sound insulation
- stairs and balustrades
- energy efficiency.
What’s the relationship between the BCA and how builders actually build?
The BCA sets a benchmark for construction by setting acceptable minimum design and construction requirements for new homes, based on current approved technology and practices. By itself, the BCA cannot guarantee that a house will be well-built, but when combined with skilled tradespeople and good design, the BCA has helped to make Australian homes among the best in the world.
Does the building industry support the BCA?
The Housing Industry Association is a strong advocate of a uniform national building code. Uniform codes ensure that builders and homeowners benefit from new and improved building technologies. By creating a common, viable market for new products, they encourage research and development by building material manufacturers and also promote increased labour mobility between states and territories.
Who is responsible for the BCA?
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is responsible for the development of the BCA. The ABCB maintains and updates the BCA, ensuring that the community is provided with cost-effective and efficient regulations.
How are codes enforced?
Each state and territory adopts the BCA through their regional legislation. It is then their individual responsibility to administer the BCA. The BCA will then enforced by the person that has issued the building permit which will be either a local council or municipal building surveyor or a private building certifier. Prior to construction, a builder’s plans must be approved before a building permit is issued. During construction, on-site inspections ensure that the actual construction is compliant with building code requirements.
How is the code updated?
The BCA is a ‘living document’ that is updated annually; the ABCB considers comments provided by both industry and consumers, taking into account the cost and the benefit of any new or amended regulations.
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