Responding to the call for action
Since the Lacrosse fire there has been a raft of actions by governments, but there has been limited alignment of the outcomes to ensure a nationally consistent approach is taken. A number of changes have been made to the NCC, new testing standards adopted, cladding ‘bans’ introduced, building product safety legislation implemented in Queensland and NSW, labelling standards published, state audits undertaken, and legislative reforms developed.
Most of the outcomes have proposed the usual ‘go to’ list, that is: mandatory licensing or CPD, more inspections, higher thresholds for licenses and insurance, prescription over performance-based design solutions, local government over private certification, and so forth. Some of these options may have merit and warrant consideration, but the question (and analysis) of why, for what purpose and how it will apply in practice, is too often an afterthought.
The most substantial government-initiated review to date was the Building Confidence Report (BCR) released in 2018, prepared by Professor Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir. It contained 24 recommendations across licencing, CPD, insurance, engagement and conduct of building surveyors, codes of conduct, competency of practitioners, peer reviews, and the quality and accuracy of plans and specifications.
In 2019, the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) agreed to the implementation of the BCR, giving the ABCB responsibility for managing the reforms. The ABCB has now established a team responsible for developing and publicly reporting on a national framework for the consistent implementation of the recommendations.
The ABCB’s first order priorities will be:
- CPD training on the NCC
- Fire authorities in the design process
- Building information database
- Performance solutions documentation
- Building manual
- High risk building products (linked to the future of CodeMark)
- Dictionary of terminology
- Complex buildings.
In parallel with this work, the ABCB is also moving ahead with an out of cycle amendment to NCC 2019 addressing performance solutions, timber mid-rise buildings, early childcare centres in high-rise buildings and complex buildings. Several state governments have also started progressing recommendations of the BCR independent of the ABCB, including Western Australia, the ACT and NSW.
Watch and act
HIA is often consulted by state and federal governments for its input on proposed reforms and will continue to monitor and respond to any as they arise. The Australian building industry is already highly regulated and, generally speaking, HIA’s position is that industry would be better served by improving how the rules are explained and applied, rather than adding more regulations to the playbook. Recommended reforms should focus on practical and tangible improvements and not on reforms that only sound good on paper.
HIA will continue to engage with members in 2020 as reforms to address building quality are proposed nationally and by the states.