The NSW Government’s response to building safety issues has been welcomed by the Australian Institute of Architects as an important step to maintain public confidence.
In their Building Stronger Foundations discussion paper, the Berejiklian Government has proposed an industry-wide common law duty of care to owners and bodies corporate; a regulatory system where builders and others could face deregistration if found to be negligent; builder declarations of compliance with the Building Code of Australia; and a new building commissioner to oversee regulations.
The Institute’s immediate past president Clare Cousins said that they have been calling for full registration of people across the building industry for many years. With the NSW Government finally moving towards actioning this measure, it was time for all other Australian states and territories to implement these protocols as well as the full set of recommendations in last year’s Shergold Weir report on building safety.
Calling for the vital safety measures to be implemented as soon as possible, Cousins said these reforms will not only protect public safety but also maintain public confidence in Australia’s building protocols; given the recent issues seen with Mascot Towers and similar incidents, the public needs to know there is a robust and nationally consistent system in place to ensure safety for people and their investments, she added.
NSW president of the Institute Kathlyn Loseby added: “The Institute has been a leading voice in calling for increased building safety measures in recent years and will be responding to the Government’s paper.
“We welcome the impending appointment of a building commissioner and the opportunity to work closely with the NSW Government to ensure these measures go far enough to protect our communities.
“The issues of self-certification, inappropriate risk allocation in contracts, and product substitution as a cost-saving mechanism also need to be addressed,” she said.
All architects are not only required to be insured but also have ongoing registration with state and territory bodies, following five years of tertiary education and two years of industry practice before taking a registration exam.
A similar registration system does not exist for building practitioners such as project managers, building designers and draughters across the country, except in Tasmania, which has implemented the recommendation requiring registration of all practitioners in building design, construction and maintenance.
There has been greater implementation of the Building Ministers’ Forum priority for jurisdictions to create minimum controls to reduce conflicts of interest and increase transparency between builders and surveyors, with complete implementation in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. However, more action is needed across jurisdictions for approved documentation to be prepared by registered practitioners, in accordance with the National Construction Code, which needs to be implemented in all states except Tasmania, Cousins said.
“Australia’s vital building safety system needs to be consistent across the entire country. All practitioners, be they architects, builders, certifiers, surveyors, developers or engineers, must be held accountable for the work they complete. Without surety on this our communities will pay the price,” she concluded.