Builders advised to register fast for new regime

Stuart Corner

Builders are being advised to “get on top of registration and understanding the declaration process” under the new building reforms that are about to hit the NSW construction industry.

According to Carrie Metcalfe, a partner at Minter Ellison and panelist on the InnovationAus webinar  The Quality Conversation a key priority for her clients under the new reforms for the NSW Design and Building Practitioners Regulation 2021, is to get in early.

“Obviously there will be a flood of applications, so it’s important to get in early to be across the contract administration exercise from 1st of July,” Ms Metcalfe said.

“It’s important to look at your procurement process to figure out who is supplying your declarations. These declarations will ensure all participants of a project know what their obligations are to the building code and ensure that their designs are integrated with the designs of others.”

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The new measures will impact any organisation involved in the financing, design, or construction of ‘Class 2 buildings — multistorey residential apartment buildings — and any multipurpose building with a Class 2 component. They are aimed at implementing provisions of the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020.

The act and regulation have their origins in a report Building Confidence: improving the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia. Co-authors Professor Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir published the report in February 2018 and made 24 recommendations designed to boost and enforce compliance with construction rules. Individual states are at various stages in their implementation of some of the report’s recommendations.

In NSW for instance, the NSW Building Commissioner is closely watching and engaging with the industry to enforce new regulations. With the new rules comes the challenge of getting on top of the processes, procedures, and information sharing required to manage and demonstrate compliance.

Digital platforms required

Building Confidence report co-author Bronwyn Weir, a legal practitioner specialising in government regulation — who has discussed the report previously with InnovationAus — told the Quality Conversation webinar that a major challenge faced by all parties impacted by the new regime would be providing, accessing and sharing all the information it will require.

Ms Weir expects the NSW Government to enable the use of digital platforms to support the process but said there would need to close collaboration with industry.

“We need to think about all the potential uses the information is put to and how it can be shared so that the different stakeholders can get access rather than having silos of information that will create privacy and other information-sharing issues,” she said.

“Building companies and associated stakeholders will have multiple needs for information to see different parts of that information for their own purposes. For example, insurance will want to see a different set than building managers, post-construction.

“If we can get it right and draw on some of the really great stuff that’s out there and create a broader set of shared information for shared benefit, I think we’ll see some very exciting changes over the next five to 10 years.”

Insurance Council of Australia general manager for policy and regulatory affairs Aparna Reddy emphasised the focus that the insurance industry has on collaboration when grappling with the changes and what it means for coverage.

Ms Reddy explained that the Insurance Council has been engaging with Engineers Australia, architects, brokers, Consult Australia and others to work through the changes, especially when it comes to retrospective elements of the changes and the challenges they present.

The challenge of product information

Institute of Quality Construction (IQC) chief executive Professor Chris Bulmer identified a major information challenge around just one aspect of the new regulation: confirming that building products are compliant.

When discussing digital platforms, Mr Bulmer commented said: “Something the industry needs to get on top of very quickly is a platform to attain and maintain an integrated set of product information that can be used right across the marketplace, if that’s at all possible.

“We’ve got a whole range of challenges: the birthplace of materials used offsite, how they are used offsite and how manufactured products are used in installations.”

Ms Metcalfe, echoed this sentiment, stating that when it comes to the use of technology for documentation and compliance, she is seeing a broad range of sophistication.

“Some clients are very progress in the technology they use and others are not.”

Ms Weir said the Australian Building Codes Board had issued a discussion paper on a new quality assurance framework for building products, and the NSW regulations would require product documentation to confirm compliance with the specifications that emerge.

“Anyone looking at building product issues should have a look at the framework that’s out for discussion,” she said. “It talks about the things that [Professor Bulmer] has mentioned around product technical statements and how we ensure the quality of products that have been specified in design material.”

Ms Weir also outlined initiatives such as a title block which will go on all design drawings, stating, “that’s all part of the digital capability of the department to keep a track of everything, keep a record of everything, and importantly, to keep a track of registered practitioners so that if you move from project to project, you will be tracked through the system in effect.”

Confirming design compliance

Professor Bulmer said demonstrating compliance to design regulations at all levels of the industry ‘food chain’ would be another major information challenge.

“How will design managers take a design that’s been completed by others and then provide that to subcontractors who have internal design responsibilities as well?” he asked.

“I think the layering of design responsibilities from a design management perspective is going to be a significant challenge. The IQC has recognised that. It’s one of the areas we’re focussing on: making sure that design compliance is being adhered to as we get further and further down the food chain.”

The full webinar Building Reform 2021 – The Quality Conversation, powered by Procore is available to watch on-demand here.

This article has been published as part of the Building Reforms 2021 – The Quality Conversation powered by Procore.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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