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Consultation on Building Approval System for WA Opens

September 15, 2019


Consultation has opened on The Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (CRIS) addressing proposed reforms to Western Australia’s building approval process for single residential buildings.

On 12 September 2019, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety – Building and Energy Division (B&E) released the CRIS which outlines three options for reform of the building approvals process, being:
Retaining the status quo;
Implementing full private certification of building approvals with all relevant recommendations of the Building Confidence Report;
Implementing improvements to the current system of building approvals with relevant recommendations of the Building Confidence Report.

The Building Confidence – Improving the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia report was prepared following a review of the building approvals systems across the country in light of the cladding fires experienced around the world. The report makes a number of recommendations for increasing the robustness of building approvals systems, to which governments around the country have agreed to implement. 

Work is also underway on a review of registration requirements for the building industry including for additional parties such as engineers) and the associated CRIS is expected to be released in late 2019. 

Summary of the options

Option 1 - Retain the status quo
Option 1 would retain the current partially privatised model for building approvals of single residential dwellings. 

Option 2 – Introduce full private certification
Option 2 proposes to allow private registered building surveyors (certifiers) to perform statutory functions in relation to single residential dwellings including:
certifying design compliance with applicable building standards;
granting a building permit authorising the commencement of works;
carrying out mandatory on-site inspections at key stages of the build;
issuing rectification orders during the build to address identified non-compliance with applicable building standards; and
notifying and lodging approval documentation with the relevant local government.
Local governments can choose to compete with private certifiers for work involving single residential building approvals and will retain responsibility for the enforcement of applicable building standards after completion of the build (once the role of the certifier has ceased).

The Building Commissioner would retain responsibility for regulating certifiers and other building professions.

Option 2 will also incorporate reforms from the Building Confidence Report including: 
compulsory continuing professional development (CPD) for certifiers;
the implementation of conflict of interest provisions for certifiers;
mandatory obligations on certifiers to report builders to the relevant government authority if they do not comply with approved plans or with directions to rectify non-compliant work;
a requirement that applications for building approval must be accompanied by a minimum standard of design documentation (including for performance solutions) that clearly demonstrates compliance with the NCC;
requirements for certifiers to document, record and endorse verified performance solutions on the CDC;
requirements to document and approve variations made during the build; and
mandatory on-site inspections at critical stages of building work. 

Other details of note in this model include:
The certifier would be required to obtain evidence of planning compliance from the relevant local government and submit that with the building permit application. Note that the model assumes that the 30 day variation assessment process outlined in the ‘Planning Reform Action Plan’ will be implemented.
The applicant is required to pay the Building Services Levy direct to the Building Commissioner and the Construction Training Fund levy direct to the Construction Training Fund. 
Minimum standards of design documentation would be prescribed in the Building Act 2011. The prescribed requirements for performance solutions would include an endorsed verification statement for each performance solution used, including details of the assessment method used to establish compliance (e.g. modelling, test results, engineer’s advice). The building owner would also be required to consent in writing to the use of the performance solution.
Owners would be required to engage a certifier, either personally or through an agent (e.g. builder). The Building Act 2011 would require the appointment to be documented.
Minimum inspection stages would be prescribed:
in situ reinforcement in footing and slabs;
frames, including roof construction;
fire-rated wall system;
final post-completion of all work;
additional inspections as specified by the certifier at the time of granting the building permit
Variations will expressly require the owner or its agent (i.e. the builder) to apply to the certifier for an amended CDC and building permit and include the written approval of the owner.

Option 3 – Improvements to the current building approvals process
Option 3 proposes to improve the effectiveness of the current system, but retain local governments as the authority to perform certain statutory functions for single residential buildings, including:
granting a building permit and authorising the commencement of works;
carrying out mandatory on-site inspections at key stages of the build; and
enforcing compliance with applicable building standards and building permits.

The current application processes for both certified and uncertified applications would also be retained. 

Option 3 will also incorporate reforms from the Building Confidence Report including: 
minimum standards of design documentation, including for performance solutions, must be submitted to clearly demonstrate compliance with the NCC;
requirements to document owner-approved verified performance solutions and record them on the CDC;
requirements to document and approve (owner-approved) variations made during the build; and
mandatory on-site inspections at critical stages of building work (including permit authority specified additional inspections).

Providing your feedback
HIA will make comment on the CRIS and is seeking input from members. 

Provide your feedback by contact wa_technical@hia.com.au or make your own submission. 

The public comment period closes on 9 December 2019.