The Australian construction industry is in the midst of a period of remarkable growth. In March this year, Business Insider Australia reported that the national construction industry saw steady expansion over the 13 months up to and including January 2018, and predicted that this upward trend will only continue at a consistent pace. While the ongoing boom has undoubtedly benefited the built environment professions – and accounted for AUD$127, 616 million worth of revenue in 2017 alone – it has brought about a complex set of challenges.
As the industry continues to expand at a rapid rate, design and construction professionals are facing a raft of complications including shorter project timelines, elevated performance demands, and an emerging culture of compliance with standards and other regulations. The speed at which design and construction is growing has also brought to light major concerns including adequate fire protection, thermal and acoustic insulation, and best practice for specification.
Below, we explore how each of these concerns are shaping today’s industry, and present an innovative new tool from concrete masonry specialists Baines Masonry that simplifies the often complex specification process. Available at http://www.gwstructural.com.au/baines/, the tool recommends suitable products based on user input to take the headache out of specification.
An Emerging Culture of Compliance
The Australian design and construction industry has always sat in the midst of a complex legal and regulatory landscape that comprises standards, regulations, certifications, and laws. Against this backdrop, it is often difficult for designers and construction professionals to understand exactly what standards they must meet and how they can achieve this.
In recent years, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has partnered with the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) to take steps toward easing this difficulty. The publication of the National Construction Code (NCC) in 2016 consolidated all Australian on-site construction requirements into a single code: volumes one and two of the Building Code of Australia (BCA), and volume three of the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA).
Combining the BCA and PCA in a single document has done much to dispel the confusion surrounding the responsibilities of built environment professionals, and has clearly set out the pathways to compliance. The publication of the NCC also codified a growing culture of compliance that is sweeping across the nation; designers and builders are increasingly aware that playing by industry rules is the safest path to success and a sure way to avoid penalties and legal repercussions.
A key focus area of Australian compliance culture is fire protection, in which failure to comply with requirements may literally become a question of life and death. In the wake of numerous high profile fires both nationally and overseas, the construction industry is now more concerned than ever with meeting the stringent fire safety requirements set out in the NCC and Australian Standards.
In 2016, the Senate Inquiry into non-conforming building products identified widespread industry confusion with respect to specifying appropriately fire safe cladding and construction products. The Inquiry also noted the growing presence of non-compliant or counterfeit products on the Australian market and warned of the safety risks that these pose. The Inquiry’s findings sent shockwaves throughout the local industry and have understandably prompted designers and specifiers to look more closely at the specification process.
Designers must also be mindful of their material selection: concrete masonry offers optimum fire protection as it contains flames, smoke, and deadly fumes for up to four hours to provide occupants with ample time to safely evacuate. Designers can significantly enhance the fire performance of their project simply by specifying concrete masonry construction and cladding products.
The Importance of Proper Insulation
In addition to fire safety, today’s designers and specifiers are concerned with thermal and acoustic insulation. The increasing prevalence of high-density, multi-residential developments means that preventing noise spill between walls and floors is more critical than ever: insulating materials such as concrete masonry can contain sound and minimise its spread beyond the original source.
Beyond this, changing climates and increasingly extreme temperatures have heightened the demand for thermal insulation. Designers and specifiers are seeking lightweight materials that trap heat effectively and keep spaces cool in summer and warm in winter. Concrete masonry excels in this regard, offering building occupants enhanced thermal comfort in addition to lower energy consumption levels thanks to reduced reliance on heating and cooling systems.
Baines Masonry Fire & Acoustic Calculator
Since 1982, Baines Masonry has led the Australian concrete industry in the design and manufacture of efficient, high performance, fully code compliant concrete products and systems. Thanks to years of experience at the forefront of the industry, the proudly family owned company is closely attuned to the demands of contemporary construction and equipped with the knowledge and expertise to address these.
With their new Fire & Acoustic Calculator, Baines Masonry channel this knowledge and expertise into one simple web-based tool that takes the headache out of specification. Specifically designed to address concerns surrounding compliance, fire performance, and insulation, the Fire & Acoustic Calculator makes selection of the correct product and compliance with the BCA easier than ever. The simple tool takes the guesswork out of specification and gives designers and specifiers the peace of mind that they are fully complying with industry requirements and significantly reducing their exposure to liability.
To use the tool, designers and specifiers simply enter a few simple design parameters that include the required wall type, installation environment, acoustic and fire insulation requirements, and the relevant BCA requirement. The Calculator then instantly provides a tailored shortlist of Baines Masonry products that meet the specified parameters and comply with the BCA requirements for use. The shortlist is also provided in printable PDF format, allowing the designer or specifier to retain a hard copy for reference or insertion into tender documents.
Click here to try it out!