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The public debate cites a number of issues that are perceived to be the crux of the problem, including:
While each of these issues is part of the problem a deeper dive into the heart of the matter often reveals warped perceptions, theoretical criticisms or sweeping generalisations about the whole industry’s failing from one-off incidents.
Melbourne’s Lacrosse apartment fire in November 2014, plus other building fire incidents that followed, brought the issue of flammable Aluminium Composite Panels (ACPs) to national attention. Ongoing investigations since have yet to determine the true number of buildings in Australia that may have incorrectly used this product. State governments have been responsible for auditing high-rise apartments and it appears that in many cases once the detailed audits are completed the number of buildings that require rectification work is much lower than initially estimated. In some instances buildings may be considered very low to nil risk with rectification unnecessary.
More recently, the structural cracking occurring in the Opal Towers and Mascot Towers in Sydney has kept building quality concerns in the spotlight in a highly emotive way. These cases however are very isolated incidents for Australian buildings, and the individual circumstances for each should be judged on its merits rather than pointing to widespread industry non-compliance.
HIA is not downplaying issues of non-compliance or potential implications for non-compliant use of materials, such as cladding on a high-rise building, nor is HIA of the view we should accept non-compliances as being an acceptable part of our industry. But when you consider that on average Australia builds around 200,000 buildings per year, with the majority resulting in successful outcomes, then the notion of widespread non-compliance paints a misleading picture of the industry. HIA sees first-hand thousands of outstanding projects and innovation from members and businesses every year, in particular through the HIA Housing Awards, which is in direct opposition to the scenarios painted by certain sectors of the media.
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:
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.