The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors is calling for an urgent and nation-wide overhaul of building regulations, and a national body to be responsible for ensuring products are compliant with Australian standards.
Last week it released a comprehensive policy paper, Building Regulatory Reform in Australia, the outlines what the association sees as the key components required to modernise and harmonise the rulebooks.
The AIBS is proposing a single, dedicated Building Act consistent across all States and Territories, with responsibility for policy formulation and administration of the regulations to be separated.
AIBS President, Timothy Tuxford, said the policy sets out the foundations for a building regulatory system that could support effective operations in all phases of construction of all types of buildings.
“The building industry has changed dramatically worldwide, but as the Senate Inquiry into Non Conforming Building Products has found, there are systemic issues that need to be addressed urgently,” he said.
Mr Tuxford said that measures to reduce red tape and the nation entering into free trade agreements have led to a greater variety of construction products in the marketplace, however, the regulatory system has not kept up with these and other changes.
The policy makes a strong call for uniform national rules, instead of the current situation where they are different for each state and territory. There are also “ambiguities” in the National Construction Code, Mr Tuxford said, and a lack of oversight and auditing. In addition, there is currently no mechanism for checking whether building products arriving on site are properly certified to Australian standards, and there is limited protection for consumers.
“We also need a system of regulations that is more transparent and easily understood by professionals working in the industry and by the general public,” he said.
Issues of building failure due to non-conforming products could be “the canary in the mine”.
“While it is unfair to compare Australia’s building stock to the Grenfell Tower, we cannot wait for a catastrophic building failure before we decide to improve our building regulatory system here,” Mr Tuxford said.
“Since problems with non-conforming products emerged, we have seen plenty of people criticise the regulations and other professionals working with them and, while some have put forward suggestions for fixing part of the system, we haven’t seen anyone come up with a practical solution for the whole of the system throughout Australia. “
To address the products issue, AIBS will be pushing for the establishment of a national body to be responsible for technical data on all building products, including testing of all products for compliance with Australian Standards, and for the results to be made publicly available.
The policy also calls for national accreditation and registration of industry professionals, and national licensing for industry practitioners.
In addition, on site and random audits of work being carried out should be undertaken by dedicated building regulators or authorised audit bodies. Critical stage inspections should also become mandatory to ensure building work is compliant.
There is also a suggestion that there should be for ongoing post occupation inspections to confirm compliance with maintenance requirements, including safety provisions.
“The policy is ambitious and achieving all of the objectives in it will be challenging but if we do not aspire to the highest standards, we will never achieve best practice in our building industry in Australia,” Mr Tuxford said.