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By Willow Aliento
July 16, 2018
State and Territory building ministers are being urged to quickly progress reforms suggested in the Shergold Weir Report, which dealt with Australia’s construction compliance and regulatory regimes.
The report and its recommendations give the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) a roadmap for reforms that will strengthen implementation of the National Construction Code. One of the report’s key messages was the need for great national harmonisation as well as a consistent inspection and enforcement regime.
The report, Building Confidence—Improving the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia, was presented to the Building Ministers Forum in April.
Professor Peter Shergold AC and Ms Bronwyn Weir were commissioned by the BMF to independently assess compliance and enforcement issues across the nation’s building and construction sector.
The Australian Construction Industry Forum is now urging the BMF to move quickly in terms of proceeding with the reforms. It is calling on all sectors of the industry to work together to implement the Shergold-Weir recommendations.
According to John Held, Acting ACIF Chair, the recent anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in London is a timely reminder of the need for consistent regulation and licensing in the industry.
Mandatory Hours Dedicated to Training
He singled out some of the recommendations as particularly significant. Amongst them are the call for a nationally consistent approach to the registration of certain categories of building practitioners and compulsory Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which would include mandatory hours or units dedicated to training on the National Construction Code.
Shergold-Weir also recommended the development of a platform that would serve for information sharing. Thus, it would be possible to inform regulatory activities. Thanks to the creation of comprehensive digital building manuals for commercial building projects the owners would be able to access all viable information as well. These would include detailed as-built design and specifications.
“These recommendations are in line with ACIF’s long-standing efforts regarding Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the creation of the Australasian BIM Advisory Board,” Mr Held said.
The establishment of a compulsory product certification system for high-risk building products is another suggestion welcomed by ACIF.
“The recommendations in the Shergold-Weir Report regarding the independence of building surveyors and the role of fire authorities in the building design and approvals process are valuable and also need to be progressed,” Mr Held said.
Building Surveyors in the Firing Line
Chief executive of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS), Brett Mace, told Jobsite that the Building Ministers need to accept the report first and then “do something about the recommendations. Otherwise, it is just a report.”
Building surveyors are very much in the firing line when it comes to the report’s findings concerning shortcomings in terms of compliance. Mr Mace admits “It is generally fair to say it has been a slap in the face in some respects.”
AIBS has already been proactive in addressing issues around compliance and building certification for some time. It has been working on a professional standards scheme for its members for the past 18 months, Mace said.
Bronwyn Shergold also presented to the AIBS Board meeting in Brisbane in June and at the NSW Chapter Conference at the start of July.
AIBS President Timothy Tuxford also presented on the AIBS new regulatory model at the NSW Conference, and Mr Mace said the common ground between his presentation and Ms Shergold’s was so great, “you would almost think they worked on their presentations together.”
He claims that the work AIBS has been doing on its professional standards scheme will have to be supported by the state and territory regulators in terms of licensing and registration. Especially since AIBS wants to see national consistency with registration for its own profession and for the other key professions in the building delivery business. Similarly, national consistency in terms of accreditation is also sought, Mr Mace said.
Starting with a Blank Canvas
AIBS is also developing its own building regulatory policy, as it is “taking a holistic approach.”
The policy will incorporate addressing the question of who enforces building regulations, Mace said. AIBS has started from ground zero on developing the policy.
“We have been looking at it as if we were contracted by a country to develop a regulatory system. So we start with a blank canvas, to get everyone out of the state-based mindset.”
According to Mace, a lot of the reforms the industry needs is not something one needs to “be Einstein” to understand—“A lot is just basic common sense.”
While the cladding issue continues to be a focus when compliance is discussed, Mr Mace said AIBS regards it as “the canary in the coal mine.” Potentially, there is a whole raft of other non-compliance issues that could emerge. Already, he said, toxic mould is emerging as a problem that can be caused by non-compliant or substandard design, products, or workmanship.
“There is a systemic failure.”
Mr Mace said there do need to be changes in industry culture around compliance.
“We want to make the change.”
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