Queensland Building Regulatory Review

Another contributing idea for this website came from  reading the Queensland Government’s  Department of Local Government and Planning 2011 Discussion Paper ‘Improving building certification in Queensland.

The review was undertaken to improve Queensland’s building certification system to address industry and community concerns.

As a result of this paper and subsequent work by the Queensland Building Services Authority, the Government released its response to the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into the operations of the Queensland Building Services Authority.

The response has opened the door to significant change to the regulation of the building and construction industry in Queensland, including establishing a new entity called the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC). The QBCC came into effect on 01 December 2013 as the new building industry regulator.

A 10 Point Action Plan has been formulated, which includes a review the role of private Building Certifiers with an emphasis on probity, conflicts of interest, quality and an appropriate penalty regime for failure to perform (Item number 9 in the Plan).

The paper suggests that one of the improvements to legislation could be to implement controls to help ensure there are no conflict of interest arising from a Building Certifiers’ involvement in the design phase of a building, such as developing an alternative design, and introducing a mandatory peer review requirement for any clearly defined situations where Building Certifiers give advice during the design phase of the project.

Building Certifiers and Alternative Solutions

The 2011 paper also commented that Building Certifiers assessing alternative designs (i.e Alternative Solutions) involving fire engineering often don’t have the expertise in assessing complex performance base building solutions and this may “be beyond the skills and qualifications of many building certifiers to assess“. The paper proposes that to help ensure Building Certifiers can properly assess these alternative designs that all Building Certifiers undertake an approved fire engineering course, such as the Graduate Certificate in Performance-Based Building and Fire Codes offered at Victoria University.

It could be argued that access within the built environment and interpretation of the access provisions of the Building Codes of Australia and the Premises Standards is just as complex as fire engineering. It would be therefore advantageous for any Building Certifier assessing an access based Alternative Solution to also hold the same qualification or be suitably experienced.

However, as there are obvious limitations with all Queensland Building Certifiers being able to attend such post-graduate tertiary, an alternative could be through a ‘peer review’ process, whereby the Building Certifier engages an Accredited Access Consultant to undertake a review of any access report provided in the building approval documentation. This will also assist the Building Certifier meet their obligations in documenting the methodology used when assessing any ‘Alternative Solution’ under Section 68A of the Queensland Building Act 1975.

HIA Response to Discussion Paper

In response to the question raised in the paper

Do you think mandatory peer review of decisions where a building certifier is involved in the design of a building, would help avoid situations relating to a potential conflicts of interest?

HIA stated that it does not support the service as a mandatory requirement, but could see the opportunity to seek a peer review as a  potential service that some private Building Certifiers would welcome. HIA also stated that it was their view that provision of such a peer review process should be investigated further.

HIA also summised that they believe strongly that the biggest influencing factor impacting on the standard of Building Certifiers’ work is the complexity of the legislative framework in which Building Certifiers are required to operate. They also agreed that certifers should have post-graduate qualifications in performance based building codes to assess fire engineered Alternative Solutions.

Risk to Queensland Building Certifiers

Building Certifiers in Queensland should consider an Access Peer Review for any Alternative Solutions relating to an access provision. Section 26 of the Queensland Building Act 1975 does not accept the reliance just on ‘Expert Judgement’ alone. The supporting documents for an Alternative Solution must include details on how the Performance Requirements have been met, how the building work complies with the Performance Requirements and how the solution differs from the relevant ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions.

Read more about the Peer Review process, or click this link to read the paper – Department of Local Government and Planning 2011 Discussion Paper ‘Improving building certification in Queensland.

Please contact Lee Wilson, Disability Access Consultant / DDA Consultant for all your Performance Solution needs. Lee is an Accredited Member of the Association of Consultants in Access, Australia Inc., and a volunteer Subject Matter Expert with the Australian Building Codes Board.