Australia must have safe, compliant buildings

The Australian public must be protected through safe, compliant buildings and that will only be achieved through buy-in by everyone involved in the building and construction industry and with everyone being accountable for their own work, a NSW upper house inquiry has been told.

The inquiry into the regulation of building standards, quality and disputes was told a “complete overhaul” of Australian building regulations was necessary after the removal of red tape and ratification of free trade agreements prompted an explosion of new building products in the market.

“(The regulations) lack the essential rigour to actually provide safe, compliant buildings,” Brett Mace, the chief executive of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors told the inquiry on Tuesday.

“The sheer numbers of products, complexity of materials, construction system and services that go into buildings make visual detection of non-conforming products near impossible for almost all these items.

“The true responsibility for compliance rests with the person undertaking the work and there needs to be much greater accountability for all.”

The AIBS had held a position for many years that a complete overhaul of Australia’s building regulations was necessary to keep pace with the changes actually occurring within the industry.

The lack of confidence in Australia’s building regulations had led to the now well documented crisis in the availability and viability of compulsory Profession Indemnity Insurance for building surveyors across the country.

“It is a clear sign that insurers have little confidence in the current regulatory system and the quality of buildings, a fact confirmed recently by insurers in London,’’ Mr Mace said.

“Worse still, we are aware that the few insurers still in the Australian market are saying they intend to reduce their exposure around cover for buildings over three stories. This will have a serious impact especially for apartment owners.”

Mr Mace said the issues relating to certification were not just the responsibility of Government. Industry also needed to take responsibility to raise the standards of the profession and contribute to an improved system of building regulation.

“Our work to develop a professional standards scheme for building surveyors is well advanced and we expect this scheme will provide increased consumer protection and raise the standards of our profession immeasurably,’’ he said.

“A professional standards scheme will further establish the competencies and skills required of a building surveyor which, as it is now, vary from state to state and in some jurisdictions, are not clearly defined.”