Improving the act building regulatory system

The ACT Government has signalled wide-ranging changes to building regulations in the ACT.

On Monday 23 November 2015, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman released a discussion paper which he said “is our next step in evaluating the Building Act and outlines how we can potentially prevent problems from occurring in the first place, and better resolve issues when they do arise in the building industry.”

Government auditing and inspection program

A key issue considered in the discussion paper is government auditing and inspections of building projects. As part of the administration and enforcement of the Building Act, the regulator manages an audit and inspection program for building approvals lodged by private certifiers. The program currently aims to audit 10% of all approvals, and where necessary to carry out building site inspections.

Proposed reform — what you need to know

The ACT Government is considering expanding its building audit and inspection program based on the risks associated with different types of building work. It is proposed that designated building inspectors who are independent of the developer and builder will be appointed to oversee the construction of multi-unit residential building projects in an effort to better prevent the occurrence and severity of building defects.

As detailed in the discussion paper, designated building inspectors would be involved in the planning and design phase of the building project, including being part of any government-managed design review and audit of building approvals. Depending on the complexity of the building project, designated building inspectors could be required to attend project meetings, and inspect critical stages of the building works. Designated building inspectors would be required to coordinate their input with those other consultants who form part of the project team (including the project certifier, architect and engineers).

It is anticipated that site inspections carried out by designated building inspectors would vary based on the level of risk associated with the building project works. For example:

  • Low-risk work would be subject to random inspections;
  • Medium-risk work would be subject to a higher level of onsite visits; and
  • High-risk work would be subject to both random and targeted inspections or even have an assigned designated building inspector.

What about the builder and certifier’s obligations?
Designated building inspectors will support rather than replace the existing roles and responsibilities of the builder and certifier. The builder would still remain responsible for the compliance of the overall building work. The certifier would still be responsible to provide statutory certification at critical stages of the work.

Industry feedback

This proposed reform is intended to increase protections for property owners and purchasers, improve the skills and knowledge of building practitioners and help to create a fairer industry for those who already comply with their obligations. Anyone with an interest in building and construction is invited to have their say on the proposed reforms set out in the discussion paper. Feedback is due by 12 February 2016.

For more information contact the Building & Construction team:

Ben Fuller — Partner — Projects, Procurement, Front End Construction
(02) 6279 4444
ben.fuller@mvlawyers.com.au

Arthur Pattison — Lawyer — Projects, Procurement, Front End Construction
(02) 6279 4331
arthur.pattison@mvlawyers.com.au