Building Stronger Foundations

Submission cover sheet

  • Name of organisation or individual making this submission

    Confidentiality requested

Questions on possible options

  1. What kind of plans should be signed off and declared by a statutory declaration?

    The mere act of signing a statutory declaration, though powerful does not in itself prevent errors being made in what is a very imprecise science. Today engineers are reliant upon software packages to calculate and design structures. The engineer has become an input device to a computer. The old skill of being able to intuitively detect error has been lost as these design packages have made extremely complex designs now possible. Look at the number of years it took to design the Opera House shelled roof. Today that could be done in nano seconds - but is it right? If you believe that this process is worthy, then each engineer responsible for their discipline ie structure, civil, geotechnical, fire, plumbing and architecture should declare their specific discipline and thereby take responsibility for their work.

  2. Should a statutory declaration accompany all variations to plans or only major variations?

    Only variations that have a direct impact upon design performance. For example moving a window slightly, or changing selection of PC’s has no bearing. But altering a beam size, location or material is a matter that needs to be checked by the relevant designers and declared prior to implementation.

  3. How should plans be provided to, or accessed by, the Building Commissioner?

    Digital delivery is only option. Unfortunately the BC will be absolutely swamped and I have no idea how any reasonable, timely and diligent checking could possibly be undertaken. If the plan is simply to have a central register of all plans in the event of a structural failure, then frankly I do not really see the benefit.

  4. In what circumstances would it be difficult to document performance solutions and their compliance with the BCA?

    Performance solutions cause difficulty as sometimes it is a subjective assessment by the parties and the regulator. If a performance solution is proffered by a party, be it engineer, architect or builder then the proponent of that solution should take full responsibility.

  5. What would the process for declaring that a building complies with its plans look like?

    A signed off set of as-built plans showing compliance with and departures from the initial approved design.

  6. What kind of role should builders play in declaring final building work?

    Builders should declare that the building has been constructed in accordance with the plans and should note any approved departures from those plans with an explanation as to the reason for and the approval of that departure.

  7. Which builders involved in building work should be responsible for signing off on buildings?

    Currently only small residential ie house builders are licensed. A necessary and vital initiative is that ALL builders should be licensed and graded in categories as being competent to undertake various scales of projects. Major residential towers, commercial buildings and industrial buildings - all builders should be licensed. The challenge is how to establish the licensing regime without stopping the industry. Once licensing is implemented, then only the licensed contractor of that building has the responsibility to sign off. False or incorrect declaration could result in loss of license.

  8. Are existing licensing regimes appropriate to be accepted as registration for some builders and building designers, such as architects, for the new scheme?

    To the extent that they operate, yes. It needs to be expanded.

  9. What should be the minimum requirements for a registration scheme?

    The standard should be set by the Building Commissioner and require that each firm has a licensed and accredited professional person responsible for the maintenance of the firms license. Not unlike a real estate office model. The minimum requirement for holding a licence would vary upon the scale, size and complexity of the structure. For example, a carpenter with a certificate accreditation could build a cottage, but not a 50 storey apartment complex. The apartment complex would require an operative with a building degree and a certain number of years experience to be qualified to hold the license. Major contractors may have many experienced and qualified people on staff to hold that license, however the company would nominate a single license holder who would be responsible for the compliance aspects of the companies performance.

  10. What form of insurance should be mandatory for ‘building designers’? Why?

    Really only professional indemnity can apply, as that is the limit and extent of their involvement. It is common practice that after plan approval by council the designer may no longer be retained, so under those circumstances it would be difficult to hold them accountable for the actual performance of the construction.

  11. What kinds of minimum requirements should be prescribed for the insurance policy (for example, value, length of cover, etc.)?

    I am not qualified to answer this question.

  12. What skills should be mandatory for ‘building designers’?

    A minimum tertiary certificate or degree appropriate for the work that is being undertaken. Unfortunately, over my lifetime, I have witnessed the evolution of the industry to the point where a client engages an architect/designer to get the approval and then to save money, hands the design responsibility over to the builder. Effectively the designer is dismissed and the detailing, so vital in areas such as waterproofing are handed over to the builder. It is a matter of concern that in many such arrangements the builders are not capable of fulfilling that role and corners are cut or experience is lacking and errors are made which cause defects later on. The clients have to some extent contributed to the industry that now operates.

  13. Which categories of building practitioners should owe a duty of care?

    All building practitioners owe a duty of care. Architects, engineers, project managers and builders all owe a duty of care to provide a product that is fit for purpose. Conflict can arise between these parties during construction primarily revolving around variations and budget constraints. Variations and or departures from the plans should be only permitted if all the parties have reviewed those departures and support the proposal. Dissent by any of the parties needs to be notified firstly to the parties and then to the Building Commissioner for review prior to implementation.

  14. What should be the scope of the duty of care? Should it apply to all or certain types of work? If so, which work?

    It should apply to all structural and fire safety engineering works as a minimum.

  15. What types of consumers should be owed a duty of care?

    All consumers are owed a duty of care. That is to say, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, apartments high, medium and low rise, retail structures and individual dwellings. The reason? They all house people whose lives need to be protected. This is not just about financial protection, this is about safety and confidence that the structures we build to allow human activity must be safe and fit for purpose, especially in an emergency situation.

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