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Building resilience

The issue of building resilience and the role of property protection in building codes and standards continues to emerge as a key issue for all levels of government.

HIA’s Position Statement

  1. The zoning of specific land as being deemed unsuitable for future housing, should only occur where it can be appropriately validated, based off verifiable evidence that the subject land has a high potential to suffer significant & costly damage, that couldn’t have otherwise be addressed through cost effective mitigation measures in the design, siting and construction of the building.
  2. The ‘moving’ of zones or boundaries on climatic maps for specific hazard areas shall be based off verifiable evidence and coordinated at a national or state level and supported by regulatory impact assessment and broad industry consultation to gauge the full impacts of the change.
  3. The core goal of the National Construction Code (NCC) and relevant Australian Standards should remain focused on life safety of occupants as opposed to asset or property protection. These core goals should not be undermined by state or local planning requirements that may seek to impose additional provisions on the design, siting and construction of buildings.
  4. Revisions or amendments to building and planning codes in respect to building resilience or mitigation measures, be based off verifiable evidence from post incident assessments and preparation of a regulatory impact assessment that demonstrates net benefits to society.
  5. The NCC and associated referenced Australian Standards are the wrong tool to be addressing resilience in isolation and resilience and mitigation needs to be considered holistically.
  6. HIA is supportive of Governments voluntary ‘buy back’ programs for home owners who have had their homes significantly impacted by natural disaster and where that home is likely to be subjected to future natural disasters.
  7. Home owners should be able to obtain home insurance at an affordable rate, and HIA is supportive of Government backed re-insurance pools for homes in higher risk areas, to overcome issues of people not being insured or under insured and enable policies to be provided at an affordable rate.
  8. The insurance sector should investigate measures to limit significant price fluctuations (labour and materials) post natural disasters and from insurance repair work that draws on trades availability.
  9. Governments should acknowledge and promote that homes built since 2010 are substantially more resilient to natural disasters and that current building standards contain contemporary solutions that have been subject to robust and detailed consideration over many years, and reject calls from relevant inquiries for further review of adequacy of current standards.
  10. The majority of homes and other structures impacted by natural disasters are generally built well before our current robust building and planning laws, therefore the notion of ‘building back better’ for impacted homes should be based on current rules and not seek to be set a more stringent level of requirements.
  11. HIA is supportive of Governments working with the housing industry on an upgrading (mitigation) program to improve the performance of existing homes to natural hazards.
  12. Governments in collaboration with HIA should establish a central repository ‘single source of truth’ for relevant guidelines, tools, etc. for measures home owners and builders can use to make homes more resilient to natural hazards and post incident clean up and re-builds and repair work.
  13. HIA is supportive of maintaining a central (federal) Government coordination agency that is adequately resourced to focus on building resilience and recovery of post natural hazards.
  14. Governments should develop simple and clear information to homeowners, insurance agencies and assessors and building inspectors, what is and isn’t within limits of expected buildings design actions for buildings to natural disasters and that builders are not liable for weather damage to structures where they had built accordance with relevant building code and standards requirements.

Background

The issue of building resilience and the role of property protection in building codes and standards continues to emerge as a key issue for all levels of government.

Ongoing natural disaster incidents arising from extreme weather conditions are leading governments to question whether homes are located in ‘safe’ places and if not, what actions should be taken.

This issue is starting to receive more and more attention and discussion on potentially strengthening of building codes and standards to address resilience and/or on whether housing should be excluded from certain areas or blocks of land that have the potential to be subject to natural disasters/extreme weather.
The costs of remedial actions to repair homes, mitigation actions to prevent future damage and consideration of new planning and building standards to limit future risks and costs are now top of mind.

The most common events include, bushfires, high rainfall, coastal and inland flooding, heatwaves, sea level rise, cyclones and other high wind events and hail storms.

Many of these major events are followed by inquiries or post incident analysis which leads to recommendations for reforms.

While new land and housing can be seemingly well managed to address these events, the majority of Australia’s existing housing stock already exists. These homes are built to past building code standards and located in areas that may today be considered not appropriate.

Moving forward, these issues need to be considered in light of both new homes and existing housing stock. This points to the need for mitigation and recovery to be the more prominent topics for government attention, rather than new planning and building standards.

Policy endorsed by HIA National Policy Congress: May 2023

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