Construction companies throughout Australia are lagging in efforts to leverage technology to improve building compliance, a survey of more than 150 leaders across the sector has found.
And understanding of the new Design and Building Practitioners Act in New South Wales is alarmingly low despite this being a key reform which is essential to improving building quality and safety.
In its latest report conducted by ACA Research, construction management technology provider Procore has uncovered a gap in the digital capabilities which is required to support quality assurance and compliance in project management.
Whilst more than nine in ten of those surveyed agree that technology plays a role in capturing information which may be required by relevant authorities, only 29 percent use specialist software to support their quality assurance and compliance processes.
The report uncovered challenges across several areas.
First, there are difficulties with digital compliance records and data collection.
Whilst design and building practitioners are routinely required to produce project documentation to demonstrate compliance with regulations at short notice during spot checks, only one in four of those leaders surveyed are confident that they could produce the required information instantly whilst less than half (49 percent) could produce the information within a day.
Challenges in this area include data collection being managed by different teams across varying subdivisions and a lack of a centralised repository for documentation.
Meanwhile, a small portion of firms (12 percent) do not have a digital system for compliance records whilst almost two thirds (65 percent) say they need to better design quality assurance processes and forms in a way which can be completed on-site using mobile devices.
That lack of centralised documentation and communication across stakeholder groups is driving ongoing difficult in quality assurance and compliance.
On site, participants describe a lack of communication (74 percent) and work not aligning with the latest set of plans (66 percent) as significant compliance challenges.
As companies digitally transform their operations, meanwhile, survey participants indicated that the most difficult aspects of managing the quality assurance process are integrating data into a single platform and ensuring that third parties such as clients and other stakeholders are able to access relevant QA records.
The latest survey also revealed that understanding of the NSW Design and Building Practitioners Act and Regulation which came into force on 1 July this year is lacking among some practitioners.
Introduced as part of the NSW Government’s plan to improve building quality following the recommendations of the Shergold Weir report, the new Act and regulations are expected to establish a precedent for national building reform. (See article for a brief summary of the new Act and regulations).
Whilst three in four of those survey respondents who are based in NSW/ACT are generally aware of the Act, however, almost six in ten (59 percent) are not fully across its requirements whilst one in five had never hears of the Act prior to participating in the survey.
Granted, this is an improvement since the start of the year at which time the Office of the Building Commissioner reported that 80 percent of the industry was unaware of the Act.
Nevertheless, it indicates that work is still needed to promote greater awareness of the new requirements.
Nationally, meanwhile, as few as 24 percent of practitioners are aware of the Act and fully across its requirements.
Given the number of practitioners who practice across state boundaries, this is a concerningly low figure.
Speaking of digital adoption, Tom Karemacher, Vice President, APAC at Procore, said there were encouraging signs notwithstanding ongoing challenges.
“The Australian construction industry is undergoing a turning point in quality assurance, and technology and data are going to play a central role in this shift,” Karemacher said.
“While there are still significant gaps and barriers to tech adoption, we are seeing digital awareness and maturity growing across the industry. Construction companies are recognising the multitude of benefits that investing in centralised project data and communication management can bring, including assisting in achieving QA and compliance outcomes.”