Meet Reg, he was a gift to me from the Office of the Building Commissioner (OBC) team last week. Some of you will have seen these neat 3D printed characters where the head is able to nod-yes or shake-no.

Reg immediately become a bit of a mascot, he could become an oracle. We are now just a month away from the commencement of the NSW Building Commissioner’s powers (RAB Act) becoming effective on the 1st September 2020. The occasion also marked the start of the first of the Occupation Certificate Auditors checking in.

We will now start an intensive period of onboarding the new OC Audit team and conducting some trial operations. We will do this in conjunction with several UDIA members who have offered up projects to enable our team to conduct proof of process and to demonstrate to industry how we are intending for the OC Audit process to work. We will write these trial projects up as case studies. They will focus on collaboration and learning. But, the inevitable conversation turned to one of ‘what would Reg do?’ as a series of scenarios were discussed.

Here are some ‘What would Reg advise?’ thought pieces

What would Reg say to good developers?

  • Keep doing what you are doing – continuous improvement, putting customers first
  • Raise your consciousness of safety and compliance standards just incase some of the poorer standards of others may have become your benchmark of what is OK
  • Be mindful that the OBC will be focusing on the risky players – builders, certifiers, trade contractors and the like. Don’t let them risk damaging your brand or standing

What would Reg say to the more risky developers?

  • Rethink the governance of your business model, obvious conflicts of interest are going to attract lots of attention going forward. A single director for many companies stands out like a flashing beacon, so expect more attention
  • The use of D&C contracts is for those who have deep industry experience and capabilities. They are not a tool to justify chasing the lowest quality outcomes
  • Anticipate the the impact of the Building Commissioner’s new multi-party ratings tools. They will join up the most risky players and their associations

What would Reg say to Certifiers?

  • Get hold of the new NSW Certifiers Practice Guide (CPG) – now in final draft and out for comment. This will come into effect during August 2020
  • Anticipate that good certifiers will soon be in demand. The CPG will probably enable you to have fewer quality clients and be paid for the value you add
  • If you are associating with proven risky players, it may be a time to rethink the company you keep. The OBC will be deploying powerful matching technologies

What would Reg say to Sub-Contractors?

  • Most of you have the skills and qualifications to perform your trades competently, safety and compliantly. There are good choices and bad choices about what you do
  • Make sure that you know the requirements of the designs for the projects you are working on and the standards that must be achieved. Check that your installations are only applied when the prior work has been done properly. Bad on bad won’t work. Work closely with product suppliers, pay attention to their technical support
  • Keep your CPD up to date, anticipate the power of the regulator’s new licensing tools, remember that you now have a digital twin that will follow you always

What does Reg have to say to material suppliers and off-site manufacturers?

  • Products turning up on job sites that are non-compliant with Australian Standards will cause consequences for their suppliers as well as installers and head contractors
  • Non-compliant, incorrectly labeled products and manufactures will be called out. Their suppliers had better show more interest in their compliant installations as well.
  • Developers should pay more attention to head contractor progress claims that attest to work having been installed in accordance with their contracts and Australian Standards. If these claims turn out to be incorrect, their is likely to be consequences such as opening up, rework, delay and associated costs. Head contractors are and will be held responsible for all the installed works.

What would Reg say to project financiers?

  • You now have access to the same risk rating tools as the regulator. Our focus is on the prediction of who are the most trustworthy project team combinations and which of them are likely to make the most trustworthy buildings – and so should you
  • Insisting on D&C contracts for the most risky, is risky. Build only contracts work.
  • Pay attention to developer drawdowns (progress claims) there is some pretty shoddy work being claimed as compliant. Remember that funded developments end up on your borrowers mortgage book and harm your customers.

What would Reg say to purchasers planning to buy off the plan?

  • This is a great time to get into the market. Developers know there is a new game for them in NSW. The regulator is batting for you
  • Do some of the basics – check projects completed by developers over the last 6-years. Ask the purchasers and residents of these properties about their experiences
  • Make sure you do a pre-settlement inspection. If you are not happy contact NSW Fair Trading. If you have material defects early in your building’s life contact NSW Fair Trading. The OBC will be working closely with NSW Fair Trading

What would Reg say to educators of today’s construction practitioners?

  • Make sure you teach about the practical realities of this industry, not just the theory
  • Make sure you and your students understand the Building Code of Australia and about Australian Standards – its disappointing how many don’t
  • Make sure that all future graduates understand what a digital twin is, how to make sure they make good decisions and about how to look out for it

What would Reg say to Industry Associations and Professional Bodies?

  • Maybe its time to step up and raise your entry standards – become professional
  • Its time to take responsibility for members that are letting the industry down
  • Its time to become customer facing and put the industry’s interests first

What would Reg say to design professionals?

  • The NSW D&BP Act has now favourably reset the compass for designers
  • Regulated designs are required from the 1st July 2020 – be prepared
  • Its time to seriously evaluate where modern designer skill gaps exist and start back filling them. CPD events should not be a tea party – that applies to everyone!

What would Reg say to the next generation of Construction practitioners?

  • The modern construction industry is entering the most exciting phase of its history ever – new technologies, new opportunities and amazing new career pathways
  • The industry needs you – come with a customer facing perspective and the world is your oyster. The most rewarding careers await those who are ready to commit to this unique transformation as we face into Construction 4.0
  • Be prepared to make a stand and walk away. There is no need to waste time with an employer who could tarnish your CV or inhibit your career with poor practices

What would Reg say to regulators?

  • In NSW, this is the dawn of a golden era – you now have the enabling legislation, digital capabilities and leadership that has your back
  • Don’t abuse this opportunity – be a mentor, point to what is right and wrong, be polite and helpful – but do not compromise
  • Be prepared to change your approach, we are now regulating from the front of the bus to minimise harm to customers – cleaning up afterwards is now the final resort

In Summary

The game has changed in NSW in favor of customers. It may take some, a bit of time to work this out. For those who are slow to see the winds of change, the ignominy of public calling out and having to do unacceptable work over and over until it is right will be expensive. It will always be many times cheaper to do it right the first time. This message is already getting through. Just ask some of the trades and certifiers.

For NSW customers of off-the plan apartments, you may be assured of the OBC ‘s + NSW Fair Trading’s support. We are heartened by the universal industry support to sort out the most risky players. There has never been a better time to re-enter the market with the confidence that that the overwhelming majority of developers are trustworthy and deliver good buildings. Be assured that when we discover the risky players and untrustworthy buildings there will be consequences. So there you have it – Reg will be vocally in your corner. Watch out for Reg saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from here on – you know what is on his mind.

Contact NSW Fair Trading in the first instance

The above article was originally posted on LinkedIn by NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler. Reprinted with permission.