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Chain of custody - know your rights and obligations

The information provided here demonstrates how the supply chain operates and what verification process should be used, for both imported and domestically manufactured building products, to ensure both builder and consumer are protected.

Builders procure products from a range of sources, including local and overseas manufacturers, trade suppliers, local importers of overseas products, and supply and install contractors. In some cases, a single product could be supplied from more than one source.

Obtaining materials from a variety of sources can make verification of a product’s conformance with the National Construction Code (NCC) complex. 

The chain of custody for building products can have a significant influence on the level of documentation that can be provided to demonstrate a product’s performance and its evidence of suitability.

The following scenarios demonstrate some of the common procurement processes used by builders. They explain what verification documentation should be provided in each case so you are protected if there are any flaws or failures in the products you use.

 

Manufacture of a product from a domestic manufacturer and sold directly from the manufacturer – window

  • The designer specifies on the plans the window details, including dimensions and design wind loads or N/C rating glazing requirements and includes a notation that glazing must comply with AS 1288 and windows must comply with AS 2047
  • The builder receives the specifications, sources a local window manufacturer and provides plan elevations and window specifications for their manufacture. NB. If using a new manufacturer ensure they know their obligations to manufacture windows that comply to the NCC and Australian Standards prior to ordering
  • The manufacturer reviews the specifications and identifies glazing required and window framing to comply with the Standards
  • The manufacturer may voluntarily participate in an industry audit program that demonstrates their continued conformance with the Standards
  • The manufacturer supplies windows as per the specifications, which are appropriately labelled and, if requested, a conformance certificate could be issued
  • The builder installs windows as per window installation instruction to ensure wind and water egress is controlled
  • The builder obtains a certificate from the manufacturer verifying conformance to AS 1288 and AS 2047 and provides documentation to the building surveyor for approval
    The customer can have confidence that the windows in the home meet the required Standard and the builder can have confidence that if there are any failures in the windows, there is an ability to contact the supplier and seek a remedy.


Manufacture of a product from an overseas manufacturer and distributed through a local importer – window

  • The designer specifies on the plans the window details, including dimensions and design wind loads, glazing requirements and includes a notation that glazing must comply with AS 1288 and windows must comply with AS 2047
  • The builder receives the specifications and searches for an imported window solution
  • The builder identifies an importer and provides the importer with the plan elevations and window specifications for their manufacture
  • The importer may or may not be a member of an industry association and may or may not be familiar with the NCC and their obligation of supplying windows that comply with AS 1288 and AS 2047, so that the safety of occupants and structure of building is maintained following installation
  • The importer forwards window specifications to the overseas manufacturer plant for manufacturing
  • The manufacturer reviews the specifications and glazing requirement but may not have an understanding of the NCC, their obligations to manufacture products that comply with AS 1288 and AS 2047 and has no testing arrangements in place that test to Australian Standards
  • The manufacturer fabricates the windows based on their normal practice and arranges shipment to the importer
  • The importer oversees delivery to site
  • The builder notices no conformance labels are on the windows and no certificate of conformance has been provided. The builder asks the importer to obtain conformance documentation from the manufacturer stressing their contractual obligations to supply a product that is fit for purpose
  • The importer is unable to obtain authentic conformance certificate from the manufacturer and advises the builder accordingly
  • The building surveyor will not approve building stage without evidence that demonstrates conformance for the windows until rectified
  • The builder will need to obtain a test of the window locally in an accredited test facility or return non-conforming windows to the importer and seek a full refund. If this is not possible, the builder may need to launch proceedings through fair trading laws to seek a remedy
  • The builder orders new windows and installs them, providing a certificate that verifies conformance to AS 1288 and AS 2047 to the building surveyor for approval.

Manufacture of a product from an overseas manufacturer and distributed and sold through an importer and local supplier – steel strapping for timber framing

  • The builder reviews the plans, wind load and refers to the current timber framing and truss Standard AS1684.2
  • The builder undertakes a stick build frame construction and calculates the bracing required for the timber frame. They choose steel strapping as the bracing method and determine that the material required for the bracing to comply with the Standard as G300 for the tensile grade for structural use and Z275 as the galvanization coating corrosion resistance of the steel
  • The builder purchases imported strapping from a supplier, which is sold as fit for structural bracing. No evidence that the strapping complies with AS 1684.2 is provided with the material purchased
  • The builder installs strapping as per the timber framing Standard
  • The building surveyor inspects the frame stage and asks for proof of using compliant strapping, to ascertain galvanization coating conformance
  • The builder requests proof of conformance from the supplier and is advised that no documentation has been provided by the importer
  • The supplier acknowledges their responsibility to sell products as fit for purpose, but is not necessarily aware of Australian Standards and how the strapping needs to demonstrate conformance
  • The supplier is unable to obtain conformance documentation from the importer
  • The builder arranges with the supplier to resupply conforming product proving it is fit for purpose and is supplied with a certificate verifying that the steel is G300-Z275 and complies with AS 1684.2 and replaces non-conforming strapping with conforming strapping.

NB. To ensure products sold as fit for purpose comply with the NCC the builder can request and obtain proof before purchasing the product. This can help to eliminate the supply of non-conforming products, product returns and any disputes between the builder, consumer and the supplier.

Client supplies imported product as part of the contract – window

  • The designer specifies on the plans the window details, including dimensions and design wind speed, glazing requirements and includes a notation that glazing must comply with AS 1288 and windows must comply with AS 2047
  • The client approves the plans and investigates the purchase of windows online from overseas with the intention to save money
  • The builder agrees to install the windows supplied by the client and has covered this in the contract and the price
  • The windows are delivered to site and when the builder checks them they realise that no conformance labels are present on the windows
  • The builder advises the client that the onus is on them to obtain conformance documentation from the manufacturer prior to installation (in accordance with the contract)
  • Whilst the client does not necessarily understand the relevance of having windows that comply with the NCC they do request evidence of NCC conformance with AS 1288 and AS 2047 from the manufacturer. The manufacturer is unable to provide documentation
  • The builder cannot proceed to install the windows without this conformance documentation as the onus is on them to install conforming products no matter who the supplier is
  • The client is left with non-conforming windows and could try to get refund from manufacturer and potential make a complaint with the ACCC
    In the meantime work progress is halted and the builder will need to seek legal advice on varying the contract until conforming windows are supplied by the client.

NB. To overcome this issue builder needs to clearly stipulate to the client at contract stage their responsibility to supply product that complies with the NCC.

Summary

These scenarios each show how it is essential for the builder to be aware of the chain of custody of a building product they intend to use.

Builders should always check and ask where their products come from and ensure that there is information that verifies how the products meet the necessary Standards.

In many cases, problems don’t arise, but in just as many cases, they do. Thinking about who supplies you with your products and using reputable companies that have guarantees, warranties and you are confident will still be in business if something goes wrong, will ultimately save you time and money.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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