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By Willow Aliento
January 7, 2019
With the new iteration of the National Construction Code due to be formally adopted by all the states and territories in May, builders and subcontractors are being urged to become familiar with its key changes.
General Manager of the Australian Building Codes Board, Neil Savery, told Jobsite that NCC 2019 is the first planned amendment to the Code since 2016. The planned changes capture an accumulation of three years of work to advance practices.
One of the most significant changes in NCC 2019 is an estimated 40 per cent of the Code’s performance Requirements will be quantified either directly or via an NCC Verification Method. It is the most significant change since the introduction of the performance-based code in 1996.
The change has arisen as a result of the ABCB’s increased use of performance initiative aimed at assisting the reduction of non-compliance caused by poor application of Performance Solutions. Readability has also been addressed, with significant structural changes to improve access, awareness and understanding of the NCC.
Industry experts have for some time been advocating for more industry participants to keep updated with the details of the NCC as a way of improving the overall level of quality and compliance. The NCC is legislated by the States and Territories as part of their building and plumbing regulations.
Savery said this means compliance with its requirements—subject to any specific state variations—is necessary for all new building and plumbing works.
“By being familiar with the 2019 edition of the NCC, businesses wanting to do the right thing are less likely to undertake non-compliant work and face legal action by regulators or building owners,” he said.
Unlike Registered Architects and Chartered Engineers, there is no mandatory Continuing Professional Development for registered builders or some of the subtrades. Nevertheless, it is vital to keep abreast of the rules that determine compliance.
“Remaining up-to-date with the regulations and standards that determine what is and isn’t required as part of constructing buildings, including plumbing work, is like all other professions and trades,” Savery says. “Things change over time, new practices are introduced and technology innovations adopted that change the way buildings are designed and developed.”
He notes that buildings have a number of “inherent life and health safety risks associated with them during construction and subsequent occupations.”
Knowing the Code’s requirements reduces the prospect of something going wrong and helps maintain the safety of workers or eventual occupants from being compromised.
“We expect the cars that we drive and the planes that we fly in to be fit for purpose,” says Savery. “Buildings are the same, but because of the range of practitioners involved in their design, approval, construction, performance and maintenance, it is critical, particularly for those life safety features of buildings, that practitioners remain versed in the latest minimum standards for construction.”
Fire safety protection has been ramped up in NCC 2019, with the introduction of new measures. These include a requirement for fire sprinklers to be installed in apartment buildings and other residential buildings four storeys and above and up to 25 metres in effective height as part of the Deemed-To-Satisfy (DTS) provisions.
Two new types of fire sprinkler have also been included, as well as concessions for other fire safety features on account of the additional protection afforded by the fire sprinkler systems.
A new non-mandatory Fire Safety Verification Method to apply to the Performance Pathway is also to be introduced, with a delayed adoption date of 1 May 2020. It has been based on the International Fire Engineering Guidelines (IFEG).
Energy Efficiency Overhaul
The energy efficiency provisions for commercial buildings—Section J—have had a major overhaul.
The revamped Section J has been informed by the COAG National Energy Productivity Plan. It contains a package of measures that will reduce energy consumption by up to 35 per cent. New Verification methods also enable projects to demonstrate compliance with the relevant Performance Requirements through utilising the NABERS or Green Star tools.
In the residential building space, the biggest change in terms of energy is the new heating and cooling loads for the NatHERS compliance pathway.
Provisions to reduce the likelihood of risks associated with condensation within buildings are also being introduced to help deal with potential health risks and amenity issues. Moreover, there is a new requirement for accessible adult change facilities to be provided in large shopping centres, sporting venues, museums, theatres, and airport terminals.
The ABCB is holding free seminars on NCC 2019 throughout February and March in all Australian capital cities, kicking off with Canberra on 12 February 2019. You can register to attend here. Webcasts of the seminars will also be available from May 2019 onwards.
You will also be able to access the Code online—the ABCB made the major change to make it no-cost to access via the ABCB website back in 2015.
Savery says that one of the reasons that happened was that “as a principle, it should not be the case that someone has to pay for the regulation that regulates them.
“It was also important to extend the reach of the NCC to the broad church of practitioners who needed to access, be aware of and understand it in order to lift the levels of compliance and improve building outcomes.”
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