On behalf of the team at WABCA, I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2018! We are finally seeing the beginnings of some positive economic signs for Western Australia this coming year. Business investment and consumer confidence is on the increase which, in conjunction with low unemployment, should see the WA economy return to growth as the year progresses.
This quarter we are taking a look at regulatory reform in Western Australia. The BCA Amendment One will come online in March 2018. The winds of change are blowing with the Building Commission continuing to audit cladding products and the Federal Senate final report on cladding is to be released in April of this year.
WABCA are well poised to offer some extremely competitive pricing over the coming months as the construction industry ramps up. We hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and look forward to working with you in 2018.
– John Greenwood
Regulatory Overview 2018
– Adam Bovell
Recent building disasters have identified some fundamental flaws in building regulations both domestically and globally. Life safety is at the forefront of building design and it is the responsibility of all construction professionals to ensure that the performance of any building will exceed minimum safety requirements. The following is intended to provide a brief overview in to the current situation which has arisen as a result of non-conforming or non-complaint claddings products being fitted to medium and high rise structures.
The timeline below outlines a series of critical events which may ultimately contribute to a remodel of the current legislative structure for building compliance.
Figure 1 – Timeline
To date, Australia’s most noteworthy cladding fire occurred at Melbourne’s Docklands Lacrosse building on 25th November 2014. The cladding fire which started on the 8th floor balcony ultimately spread over 23 levels in the space of 11 minutes. Fortuitously there was no loss of life given the building’s fire sprinkler system performed exceptionally well and prevented the spread of fire internally.
As a result of this event, Victorian Building Authority (VBA) audited external wall cladding in Melbourne with the following findings being published;
- No single category of practitioner involved in the design, approval or construction is consistently responsively for the non-compliant use of cladding.
- BCA requirements for external wall materials are applied inconsistently and are poorly understood.
- The VBA has taken disciplinary action against the fire engineer, builder, building surveyor and referred the project architect to the Architects Registration Board.
The Australian Building Ministers Forum (BMF) is a ministerial body consisting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers responsible for building & plumbing policy. The BMF meets periodically and in July 2015 created the “Senior Officer’s Group” to report in to;
“minimising the risks to consumers, businesses and the community associated with failure of building products to confirm to relevant laws and regulations and at the point of import”
The Officer’s Group ultimately tabled a report in February 2016 stating the following;
- Enhance the powers of building regulators to respond to instances of non-conforming building products.
- Develop educational strategies to better inform consumers
- Building industry participants will share greater responsibilities in the safe use of building products.
- Minster for Housing and Works Mick de Brenni went as far as recommending “builders to safeguard their projects by using Australian made products that meet Australian Standards”.
Sadly, the Grenfell Tower cladding Fire which occurred on the 14th June 2017 resulted in a significant loss of human life and signified a wakeup call for regulators globally. In Australia, the response was significant in that;
- On the 3rd July 2017 – Australian Prime Minister requested all state leaders to urgently audit hi-rise buildings in relation to combustible cladding.
- Australian Senators write to the Senate Economic Committee and request an urgent inquiry into non-conforming building products.
The Australian Senate Enquiry (in relation to cladding products) released an Interim Report on the 6th of September 2017 with the following findings being published;
- Decline in Australian manufacturing base. Majority of products used in Australian building market are now imported.
- Difficulty in obtaining documentation, AS, CodeMarks etc.
- Monitoring/Auditing of material must be maintained.
- Consumers must have confidence in the credibility and integrity of the certification system.
- Enforcement & Penalties for parties abusing the system.
- Certification and markings of imported products are not always reliable.
- At this time, any individual can import construction materials which do not comply with complete impunity and without the knowledge of if these products comply with Australian Standards.
- The CFMEU, AIBS & Building Products Innovation Council (BPIC) consider fraudulent documentation a “massive problem”.
- The Australian Windows Association has identified “literally thousands of documents that are fraudulent”.
- Product substitution can be problematic.
- Building Codes – Ambiguities in the interpretation of prescriptive clauses. Some contradictory clauses. See BCA 2016 Amendment 1.
- Greater use of BCA Performance Solutions – E.g A solution currently exists which allows the installation of polyethylene cladding on hi rise buildings with risks offset be additional sprinklers and fire walls.
- A total ban on the importation, sale and use of Polyethylene core aluminium composite panels as a matter of urgency.
- The Commonwealth government work with state and territory governments to establish a national licencing scheme, with requirements for continued professional development for all building practitioners.
- The Building Minister’s Forum (BMF) give further consideration to introducing nationally consistent measures to increase accountability for participants across the supply chain.
- The committee strongly recommends that the Commonwealth government consider making all Australian Standards and codes freely available.
- A penalty regime for non-compliance with the National Construction Code such as revocation of accreditations (licences).
- Ensure that the Federal Safety Commissioner is adequately resourced to ensure the office is able to carry out audit functions.
- Implement end user protections for Strata Companies who discover instances of non-compliant or non-conforming products.
The Senates final report is due for release in April 2018.
Several industry bodies have supplied evidence and opinions in relation to this matter. The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS) position paper can be sourced via the links below.
- AIBS Policy – Building Regulatory Reform in Australia
- Australian Senate Interim report: aluminium composite cladding
- NCC 2016, Volume One Amendment 1