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FPA Australia response to Shergold-Weir report

Posted on : Friday, 29 June 2018

In May the Building Ministers' Forum released a report it had commissioned into the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia.

 

The report, prepared by Professor Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir, set out 24 recommendations to improve to improve that effectiveness and address shortcomings, including a call for the implementation of a 'national best practice model'.

 

Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) is broadly supportive of these recommendations. Critically, however, the Association believes it is necessary for the success of almost all of the 24 recommendations for them to be implemented in a nationally consistent manner, rather than independently by each jurisdiction along separate timeframes with differing execution.

 

The current fragmented nature of administrative legislation in the building and construction sector, particularly around the implementation of the National Construction Code (NCC), is a significant cause of confusion and complexity, and ultimately leads to less compliant outcomes.

 

In response, FPA Australia is calling on the establishment of a National Construction Code Implementation Taskforce, drawing together government and industry to develop a model NCC Administrative Code to harmonise requirements and compliance with the NCC across all states and territories.

 

FPA Australia believes the Shergold-Weir report's recommendations should form the framework on which much of this NCC Administrative Code should be developed, and as such has responded to each of the 24 recommendations below.

 

Recommendation 1:

 

That each jurisdiction requires the registration of the following categories of building practitioners involved in the design, construction and maintenance of buildings:

 

  • Builder;
  • Site or Project Manager;
  • Building Surveyor;
  • Building Inspector;
  • Architect;
  • Engineer;
  • Designer/Draftsperson;
  • Plumber; and
  • Fire Safety Practitioner.

 

FPA Australia strongly advocates for national consistency in recognising competency for individuals performing these roles. In particular for fire safety practitioner we contend that this includes a number of classes associated with different tasks in the building lifecycle process. These are namely:

 

  • Fire Systems Design;
  • Fire Systems Installation;
  • Fire Systems Certification;
  • Fire Systems Inspect and Test (Routine Service); and
  • Fire Systems Maintenance (Rectification Maintenance).

 

The Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS) developed by FPA Australia is progressively developing accreditation pathways for each of these classes and is a national scheme that can be adopted or recognised by individual jurisdictions.

 

Recommendation 2:

 

That each jurisdiction prescribes consistent requirements for the registration of building practitioners including:

 

  • Certificated training which includes compulsory training on the operation and use of the NCC as it applies to each category of registration;
  • Additional competency and experience requirements;
  • Where it is available, compulsory insurance in the form of professional indemnity and/or warranty insurance together with financial viability requirements where appropriate; and
  • Evidence of practitioner integrity, based on assessment of fit-and-pro per person requirements.

 

FPA Australia is supportive of these recommendations and FPAS reflects the requirements wherever possible already.

 

Recommendation 3:

 

That each jurisdiction requires all practitioners to undertake compulsory Continuing Professional Development on the National Construction Code.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation as the NCC continues to evolve. FPA Australia is prepared to engage with ABCB to develop a package of NCC training tailored to the fire protection industry and deliver this to support CPD requirements.


However FPA Australia has recognised that CPD is important beyond just understanding the NCC, and FPAS already includes compulsory CPD as a requirement for accredited practitioners. Jurisdictions should nominate the subject areas that require compulsory CPD and this should include legislation, the NCC and relevant standards and industry practice.

 

Recommendation 4:

 

That each jurisdiction establishes a supervised training scheme which provides a defined pathway for becoming a registered building surveyor.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation but contends that any training for roles in the building industry should be nationally consistent as far as possible. The current fragmentation of administrative legislation addressing building approval in each jurisdiction makes nationally consistent training difficult and accordingly the states and territories should commit to developing a model NCC Administrative Code for consistent adoption wherever possible.

 

Recommendation 5:

 

That each state establishes formal mechanisms for a more collaborative and effective partnership between those with responsibility for regulatory oversight, including relevant state government bodies, local governments and private building surveyors (if they have an enforcement role).

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation but again contends that national consistency in this regard is important. The current fragmentation of administrative legislation addressing building approval in each jurisdiction makes this difficult. Unnecessary confusion and cost can be avoided by consistent requirements and expectation. Accordingly, the states and territories should commit to developing a model NCC Administrative Code for consistent adoption wherever possible that establishes clear and consistent expectations for individuals responsible for regulatory oversight and gives confidence to parties seeking regulatory approval or undertaking work. This will increase the consistency of NCC application and therefore compliance.

 

Recommendation 6:

 

That each jurisdiction give regulators a broad suite of powers to monitor buildings and building work so that, as necessary, they can take strong compliance and enforcement action.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation on the basis that a regulatory regime without enforcement does not deliver consistent compliant outcomes. Again, however, these powers and expectations should be nationally consistent wherever possible and form an aspect of a model NCC Administrative Code. It is not helpful for each jurisdiction to develop these individually.

 

Recommendation 7:

 

That each jurisdiction makes public its audit strategy for regulatory oversight of the construction of Commercial buildings, with annual reporting on audit findings and outcomes.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation. If state and territories cannot commit to an audit strategy they should outsource this power and responsibility to a national body.

 

Recommendation 8:

 

That, consistent with the International Fire Engineering Guidelines, each jurisdiction requires developers, architects, builders, engineers and building surveyors to engage with fire authorities as part of the design process.

 

FPA Australia supports the recommendation to adopt the IFEG process where performance solutions are proposed. Whilst the IFEG needs updating in some areas, the need for this work has already been acknowledged, as has the ongoing international recognition of the IFEG principles and processes. The extent of engagement between parties in the design and approval of performance solutions should be included as a specific aspect of a model NCC Administrative Code and draw on, or reference directly, the IFEG. FPA Australia contends that to satisfy any performance requirement that includes fire brigade intervention as an element, the relevant fire authority must be consulted as no other party has expertise or knowledge as to the likely operational response.

 

Recommendation 9:

 

That each jurisdiction establishes minimum statutory controls to mitigate conflicts of interest and increase transparency of the engagement and responsibilities of private building surveyors.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation. Rather than each jurisdiction doing this in a different way, this is another aspect that should be addressed by a model NCC Administrative Code consequently adopted by each jurisdiction.

 

Recommendation 10:

 

That each jurisdiction put in place a code of conduct for building surveyors which addresses the key matters which, if contravened, would be a ground for a disciplinary inquiry.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation being addressed by a model NCC Administrative Code. The disciplinary inquiry mechanism could utilise existing jurisdictional forums, but the key matters that would be a ground for a disciplinary inquiry should be nationally consistent.

 

Recommendation 11:

 

That each jurisdiction provides private building surveyors with enhanced supervisory powers and mandatory reporting obligations.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation to support private building surveyors and emphasise the expectations for compliance with other stakeholders in the building process.

 

Recommendation 12:

 

That each jurisdiction establishes a building information database that provides a centralised source of building design and construction documentation.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation subject to the database containing consistent information from each jurisdiction with certain aspects accessible by certain parties. For example, approved design documentation includes baseline data critical for verifying the ongoing performance of installed fire protection systems and equipment. This should be accessible to building owners who can make it available to contractors engaged by them to undertake work on their building. It also has the potential to inform auditing strategies. This data should be collected in a way that can highlight approval trends and inform the development of future NCC requirements. Data on a national scale is needed.

 

Recommendation 13:

 

That each jurisdiction requires building approval documentation to be prepared by appropriate categories of registered practitioners, demonstrating that the proposed building complies with the NCC.

 

FPA Australia contends that documentation demonstrating compliance is paramount for the lifecycle of the construction and use of a building for all stakeholders. FPA Australia supports this recommendation and contends that this is another aspect that could be addressed by a model NCC Administrative Code adopted by each jurisdiction to ensure consistency.

 

Recommendation 14:

 

That each jurisdiction sets out the information which must be included in performance solutions, specifying in occupancy certificates the circumstances in which performance solutions have been used and for what purpose.

 

FPA Australia supports this specific recommendation which could be considered a sub-set of recommendation 13 above. Performance based designs represent the future of building control and although design techniques and technologies will continue to evolve, documentation of how design requirements were determined to meet the performance requirements of the NCC and the expectations for their implementation and ongoing maintenance are critical to the ongoing use and safety of the relevant building. It is disturbing that a higher premium has not been placed on this already and, again, this information should be nationally consistent and set out in a model NCC Administrative Code.

 

Recommendation 15:

 

That each jurisdiction provides a transparent and robust process for the approval of performance solutions for constructed building work.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation. Improving consistent competency of individuals responsible for the design and those responsible for approval of performance-based design is important to deliver compliance and maintain the integrity of the performance concept. It is important that there is a nationally consistent, transparent and robust process for approval set out in a model NCC Administrative Code.

 

Recommendation 16:

 

That each jurisdiction provides for a building compliance process which incorporates clear obligations for the ongoing approval of amended documentation by the appointed building surveyor throughout a project.

 

It is inevitable that during today's construction timeframes and the available technology to document designs and amendments electronically that changes will be made during the construction process. It remains critically important, however, that these changes still represent a compliant design and that this is confirmed by the appointed building surveyor and documented for future reference. FPA Australia supports this recommendation being adopted as an aspect of a model NCC Administrative Code.

 

Recommendation 17:

 

That each jurisdiction requires genuine independent third-party review for specified components of designs and/or certain types of buildings.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation in relation to the development of performance-based designs and some fire safety systems.

 

Recommendation 18:

 

That each jurisdiction requires on-site inspections of building work at identified notification stages.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation and that these notification stages should be nationally consistent and addressed by a model NCC Administrative Code.

 

Recommendation 19:

 

That each jurisdiction requires registered fire safety practitioners to design, install and certify the fire safety systems necessary in Commercial buildings.

 

FPA Australia strongly supports this recommendation further to our response to Recommendation 1 with the addition that registration should also extend to practitioners undertaking inspect and test (routine service) and maintenance (rectification maintenance) on fire safety systems and equipment.


Fire safety systems are life safety systems critical to achieving the goals of the NCC. The competence of the practitioners undertaking work on them should be nationally consistent. FPA Australia believes that FPAS provides an accreditation framework that each jurisdiction can recognise as a streamlined path to registration.

 

Recommendation 20:

 

That each jurisdiction requires that there be a comprehensive building manual for Commercial buildings that should be lodged with the building owners and made available to successive purchasers of the building.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation as complimentary to the capture of data proposed by Recommendation 12. The requirement for the building manual and the expected contents should be prescribed in a model NCC Administrative Code.

 

Recommendation 21:

 

That the Building Ministers' Forum agree its position on the establishment of a compulsory product certification system for high-risk building products.

 

FPA Australia supports this recommendation subject to acknowledging the rigour of existing product certification routes considered acceptable.

 

Recommendation 22:

 

That the Building Ministers' Forum develop a national dictionary of terminology to assist jurisdictions, industry and consumers to understand the range of terminology used to describe the same or similar terms and processes in different jurisdictions.

 

FPA Australia does not support this as a final outcome. Instead FPA Australia supports this as an activity that this part of the process of developing a model NCC Administrative Code where terminology is consistent for national implementation.

 

Recommendation 23:

 

That the Building Ministers' Forum acknowledges that the above recommendations are designed to form a coherent package and that they be implemented by all jurisdictions progressively over the next three years.

 

FPA Australia acknowledges and supports the need for progressive change and that a three-year time period is reasonable. However, FPA Australia does not support jurisdictions undertaking this work individually and perpetuating the fragmented administrative approach to implementing the NCC. A coherent package of reform is needed.


Instead, FPA Australia strongly encourages the BMF to provide the national leadership Australians deserve to improve compliance and implementation of the NCC, and establish a national NCC Implementation Taskforce to develop a model NCC Administrative Code addressing these recommendations.
This Taskforce would have representatives from each jurisdiction and industry peak bodies and produce a model NCC Administrative Code that each jurisdiction could adopt progressively to ultimately align key administrative requirements for the implementation of the NCC nationally.

 

Recommendation 24:

 

That the Building Ministers' Forum prioritise the preparation of a plan for the implementation of the recommendations against which each jurisdiction will report annually.

 

FPA Australia recommends that the NCC Implementation Taskforce could merge this into a single report and jurisdictions would only report on their progress in adopting and implementing aspects of a model NCC Administrative Code once it is complete.