Proposed reforms to building industry regulation in New South Wales are not sufficient to deliver adequate consumer protection and need to go further, architects and building owners say.

In a joint statement, the Australian Institute of Architects and the Owners Corporation Network welcomed a number of proposals put forward by the New South Wales Government in its response to last year’s Shergold Weir report which it released on February 19 this year.

But they argue that proposed reforms in regard to declarations of building compliance do not go far enough.

In its February 2019 response to the Shergold Weir report, the New South Wales Government outlined proposed reforms in four areas.

These included:

  • Requiring ‘building designers’ such as architects and engineers to declare that building plans comply with building regulations and the NCC and requiring builders to declare that buildings have been constructed in accordance with the design.
  • Introducing a new registration scheme for currently unregistered building designers and commercial builders who make declarations.
  • Ensuring that building practitioners owe a common law duty of care to owners’ corporations and subsequent residential homeowners as well as to unsophisticated development clients.
  • Appointing a Building Commissioner to act as the consolidated regulator for the construction industry, with powers to investigate and take disciplinary action against building practitioners that engage in improper conduct.

Under the first change, categories of building practitioners who are registered as ‘building designers’ and who provide final designs and/or specifications of elements of buildings will be required to declare that plans and performance solutions comply with all relevant building regulations including the National Construction Code.

This includes architect, engineers and other building practitioners who provide final designs and/or specifications of elements to buildings.

These design practitioners will also need to demonstrate how performance solutions would satisfy the requirements of the BCA.

Builders, meanwhile, will be required to declare that buildings have been constructed in accordance with the plan.

Accompanying this reform would be a new registration scheme for those designers and commercial builders who are not currently registered but who intend to make declarations.

This is necessary as only authorised practitioners would be entitled to declare plans, how any performance solutions comply with the BCA or that a final building complies with its plans.

In their statement, however, AIA and the OCN, welcome the Building Commissioner proposal and the new duty of care but argue that the declarations reform does not go far enough.

Instead, they say the reforms must go further and embed independent quality assurance checks from suitably qualified individuals throughout the construction process.

“Relying on declarations at the start and finish of what can be extremely complex construction processes is not enough to materially enhance quality, safety or consumer protection,” the Institute’s NSW Chapter President Kathlyn Loseby said.

“For large and complex projects, this oversight and quality assurance function needs to occur continuously throughout the design and construction stages, such as could be achieved through the appointment of a site architect and clerk of works, as has operated effectively in the past.”

OCN Director and spokesperson Stephen Goddard agrees.

He says events such as the evacuation of the Mascot Towers underscore that there is insufficient accountability and independent checking throughout the construction supply chain.

“It is not fair that owners should have to face the ongoing financial burden of poor quality construction, which should never have been allowed to happen in the first place,” Goddard says.

“We share the view of the Institute that every building practitioner along the construction chain should be accountable for their work, and an appropriate quality standard should be enforced.”

The statement came in response to a discussion paper about the proposed reforms which was released on the Fair Trading NSW web site.

Consultation on the paper is closes on Wednesday (July 24).