The National Construction Code is often referred to in various contexts by those in the building and construction industry and outside and at times, ones wonders if those outside (or less likely those within it) truly and fully appreciate the significance of the Code. This article seeks to provide a primer or summary of the main reasons for and effects of the Code.

It is designed to incorporate onto a single code all on site construction requirements for buildings and other structures. That is the broad remit and it prescribes minimum requirements for new buildings and new works of a building nature after its date of inception which is 1 May 2019.

It operates in all states and territories of Australia through the incorporation by reference by building laws and regulations. It used to be known as the Building Code of Australia and in addition it incorporates the Plumbing Code. It is overseen by the Australian Building Codes Board. It is meant to simplify what is required for and by the industry. You comply with it by meeting the relevant Performance Requirements (note the deliberate capitalisation of these words as is done in the code itself).

It can arguably be said for example that understanding the structure and requirements of the NCC is invaluable and it will help many walk all the way to the end of any construction process easily, confidently, and professionally. Again that is one of its broad overarching aims.

There are some key considerations which go into the code, and which things make up the code’s mission statement and they are ones of health and safety, amenity and accessibility and sustainability so in that respect, it makes an attempt, and for which reasonable minds may differ to keep up with the prevailing sentiments of the day.

Some other key aims of the document include its more readability by simplifying the language of it somewhat so the general public can arguably read and understand it better, mandatory fire sprinkler protection requirements for apartments hotels and other multi unit developments. Obviously this last requirement dovetails into the recent issues surrounding fire safety and combustible cladding.

Other key additions include new energy efficiency requirements and measures, and new standards to do with waterproofing in respect of buildings and in order to deal with issues of condensation (issues of condensation formation in buildings many are now realising more and more have direct and or indirect health impacts particularly among those who may be health compromised already as well as the elderly).

As to waterproofing, this author welcomes measures designed to do with this issue as it has been such a common issue in domestic building litigation over the years that among other alleged defects there are also allegations of lack of or no waterproofing at all applied to works.

The code adopts a performance based approach (though, to be sure, be aware that it has a set of legally binding prescriptive requirements even though there are dotted throughout what are called ‘compliance options’) to the area it seeks to cover, that of building regulation. This author has however, on a slight side note, recently spoken to an industry participant who vigorously questioned whether any of the laws codes and regulations currently in the industry take sufficient account of the needs of the disabled. This is a potential hotbed issue and one which may play out further in due course. Many hope that it does indeed do that.

The document is fairly freely accessible online and information is fairly easily obtained as to the amendments which it makes to the old Building Code of Australia. Further information on the code is easily obtained by anyone and this article in no way professes to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject but is instead aimed at proving food for thought and a primer for those interested.

In the fullness of time a real assessment of course can be made as to the code’s effectiveness and a judgement made as to whether it has changed things for the better in the area regulated by it in comparison to the way things were ‘under the auspices of’ the old Building Code of Australia. This author and many in the industry will be watching developments and welcome feedback.