Australia’s new National Construction Code (NCC) came into effect on May 1, following a three-year period of review, industry comment and revision.
 
Overseen by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), the NCC is a joint initiative by all three levels of government. Addressing key areas like safety and health; amenity; design accessibility and sustainability; performance and liveability, the NCC sets minimum standards for the design and construction of all new buildings in Australia. Here we recap the major changes to the NCC in 2019.
 
Fire safety
 
Given the prevalence of residential building fires in recent years – both in Australia and overseas – it’s hardly surprising that this review of the NCC takes safety very seriously. Championed by the fire industry, changes feature new specifications for fire sprinklers in multi-dwelling buildings.
 
These fire safety changes offer greater protection to vulnerable occupants who may not otherwise respond to fire alarms – including elderly occupants, children, people with hearing impairment and those affected by alcohol. This approach (developed by the Fire Protection Association of Australia) is also designed to improve fire safety for building occupants without negatively impacting the cost of construction.
 
Subject to a one-year transition period, fire safety changes will affect Class 2 buildings (containing 2 or more sole-occupancy units as separate dwellings) and Class 3 buildings (those providing long term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons like boarding houses, motels and detention centres). A new non-mandatory Fire Safety Verification Method (VM) will also be adopted in 2020.
 
Sustainability
 

Sustainability has also attracted much attention in this revision of the NCC, with Section J of the Code receiving its first major rework in 9 years.
 
Changes here focus on reducing the energy consumption of new buildings (by as much as 35%) and also affect the heating and cooling load limits for achieving NABERS compliance. New methodology has been applied to glazing and insulation; and lighting specifications have also changed, reducing lighting power density requirements for improved sustainability performance.
 
Implementation
 
Historically the NCC was reviewed and amended annually, however in 2016 this process was streamlined to once every three years. 2019 is therefore the first three-yearly review. This review process takes into consideration changes and advancements, helping the construction industry to achieve safer, higher quality and better performing buildings.
 
According to the ABCB this revision of the NCC is designed for ease of use, with a considerable revamp of the Code’s terminology, wording and structure. The NCC is also designed to for ease of compliance, through the introduction of 20 new Verification Methods (VMs).
 
One of the most significant changes to compliance, however, relates to sustainability. Previously independent verification methods for projects to achieve NABERS and Green Star ratings can now also be used to meet NCC sustainability verification requirements, making compliance much easier for businesses.
 
What else is new?

 
  • Accessibility: New requirements have been written into the NCC for accessible adult change facilities to be provided in all large shopping centres, sporting venues, museums, theatres and airport terminals.
 
  • Condensation management: For healthier buildings and a reduced risk of mould, changes have been made to condensation management. These changes affect water control membranes, permeable membranes, roof space ventilation and exhaust discharge from wet rooms including kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and laundries.
 
  • Transitions and delayed adoption: Although the NCC took effect on May 1, ACT compliance will commence on June 1. Some changes within the new Code will also have delayed adoption dates nationwide.
 
To understand the effectiveness of this revision of the NCC on the safety, accessibility, quality and performance of new Australian buildings, we must look to known indicators. Will we see a reduction in fatalities and serious injuries occurring in new buildings? Will new building stock perform better and consume less energy – in the short and long term? And will the cost of construction reworks go down? Only time will tell.
 
More information is available from the ACBC website, along with tools and calculators for measuring compliance and performance: https://www.abcb.gov.au/.
 
Do you think much needed change has been delivered through the NCC? Are there areas where greater emphasis is required? Does this revision make compliance easier or harder for your business? Please share your thoughts and comments via LinkedIn.
 
Alternatively, please contact a member of the Coates Hire team on 13 15 52.
 

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