It is normal for this time of year to start thinking about May 1, but this year is different as we do not have to prepare for all the changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) for 2017.

May 1, 2017 is not going to be a day where we all run around trying to find out what has changed and how we adjust our building practices and standards to meet the minimum deemed-to-satisfy (DtS) provisions. This year we get to relax, this year nothing changes. This year we can all focus on something more fun, like tax, inflation, competition, changes of government, staff, wages, cash flow, investment, and all the other things that go into running a business in the construction industry.

So what will this mean for May 1, 2019, which is now getting closer? Will the changes in 2019 be a huge difference? Will things change so much that it will take from 2019 to 2022 to catch up?

The planning and development of the proposed changes is happening now. The pace of change is increasing and the impacts of not making changes are getting more severe. A possible area that might start to see some change within the NCC is resilience. The focus of parts of the construction industry includes resilience right now.

Resilience is important because we are not talking about stopping climate change anymore, we are talking about limiting it after the Paris agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change set the limit to a two degree Celsius global average temperature increase. This means we must design and build to provide society with buildings that can adapt to provide resilience for that extreme storm, severe flood, or a 20-year drought. We need buildings that adapt to 50 degree Celsius design days, and we need the population to accept 26 degree Celsius indoor temperature as comfortable.

The performance requirements of the NCC will be required to drive the changes to demonstrate improved energy efficiency, resilience and cost effective construction. September 1, 2017 is a key date, as all proposed changes and submissions are due to the Australian Building Codes Board and any change that may be considered for the 2019 NCC will have to be submitted by then.

The focus of the NCC 2016 was to drive performance based solutions. To achieve the Paris Agreement, changes must be introduced into the building codes. The performance provisions within the NCC must set targets that drive construction to meet the provisions, and provide a mechanism for proving the performance measures have been achieved if we are to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Disruptive change is required within our building industry and government legislation to achieve or approach the goal of the Paris Agreement. Minimising site based work is one way of achieving some of the required reductions.

Current building design and construction methods are based on the age-old tradition of onsite manufacture by qualified tradespeople. They then apply design codes and standards during the construction process to ensure the building or structure is compliant with state legislation and all relevant building codes and Standards.

Looking at the some of the current trends we can see that a house or building of the very near future will:

  • be manufactured off site
  • be made of integrated components that are structural
  • feature architectural and functional parts of the building in the one component
  • be made to order in non-standard sizing, materials and methods
  • not necessarily have foundations
  • be made with electrical systems that are 12V DC based and hence do not need to be complied against current standards
  • be self-sufficient
  • be highly energy efficient
  • not be connected into the existing infrastructure.

Performance requirements must be developed to address this disruptive change in the construction landscape.

  • This is one of the strengths associated with the current performance based nature of the Code in that it lends itself to flexibility in terms of the methods used to achieve the desired result. That said, the performance requirements themselves will in fact have to change.

    At a broader level, the fact that planning for BCA 2019 is in fact happening now more than two years in advance demonstrates exactly why the move toward three year BCA amendments is so good. This will mean that changes have adequate time to go a thorough review process and be subject to adequate levels of scrutiny rather than being pushed through by interest groups.

  • It was lovely to read your article Ken. It is time to highlight the area where a simple improvement can be encouraged right now with the stakeholders. How simple is it to mandate 'cool roofs' for all buildings in climate zones 1 through to 6? The building code mentions roofs of low solar absorptance as 'reduces the flow of heat from solar radiation better. than…..' and notes 'roofs of up to SA 0.4 as typically corresponding to a roof of light colour such as white, off white and cream'. Should builders already be conforming to this stated 'requirement' or does it need to be re written in a less vague manner. The improved thermal performance will result in internal temperatures of close to 26C 'without engineered solutions' and for NIL cost, yet maximum benefit to the whole community and the environment. EnergyCut tells commercial builders that roofs should have light colours and gives examples of huge financial savings and improvements to profits. Who does not want more profit through lower operating costs?? YourHome tells builders that homes should have light coloured roofs. The Roof Tilers Association of Australia says a light coloured roof will save between 25 and 36% in energy costs. Who does not want to save on their household energy bills??? That being said, who profits from dark walls and roofs???

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