Standards relating to the construction of buildings in Australia should be freely available, building industry suppliers have said.

Responding to the release of an interim report of the Senate Economics Reference Committee into non-compliant building products, the Building Products Innovation Council has thrown its support behind a proposal to make Australian standards freely available online.

“BPIC has long argued that regulatory codes and especially Australian standards be free to access and use,” BPIC chief executive officer Rodger Hills said, “and now the Senate Inquiry agrees.”

The latest comments follow a recommendation from the Committee that the Commonwealth Government consider making all Australian standards available online at no charge.

Whilst the National Construction Code is freely available online, the standards which it references are not.

According to the Master Builders Association, there are more than 100 primary reference standards which are specified in the National Construction Code and several hundred more secondary referenced standards.

At an average cost of $120 per document, Master Builders says that this cost represents a barrier to compliance.

When the cost of the NCC and its Guide was reduced from more than $300 per year to zero, Master Builders points out that the number of registered users jumped from 12,000 to 140,000.

The Senate Committee agreed, saying it was ‘dismayed’ that building practitioners are expected to pay unreasonable sums of money to access the standards.

Making the standards free, it said, would help to raise NCC compliance levels and reduce the overall cost of both compliance and insurance.

In the BPIC statement, Hills acknowledged that the process of making standards free would be a significant undertaking but argued that the benefits would outweigh the costs.

He says access to free standards would help to create a well-informed cohort of educated designers, specifiers, suppliers, builders, installers and certifiers.

This was especially critical, he said, as Australia moved progressively away from Deemed-to-Satisfy solutions toward performance solutions.