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Reform of building regulation

Research report

Released 01 / 12 / 2004

The report presents the findings of the commissioned study which examined the contribution that reform of building regulation, under the auspices of the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), has made to the productivity of the building industry and economic efficiency.

In addition, the Commission was asked to examine the scope for further reform to make additional gains.

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  • Media release
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The building sector is subject to a diverse range of regulations by all levels of government. The Building Code of Australia (BCA), in particular, contains building standards aimed at achieving health, safety and amenity objectives.

There has been work over many years to bring a national approach to building regulation. Progress has been made, particularly in:

  • reducing differences in mandatory technical requirements across jurisdictions
  • changing the BCA to performance-based requirements, rather than prescriptive requirements.

However, this reform work is far from complete and recent developments are undermining a national and soundly based system of building regulation. The future agenda for building regulation reform should include:

  • further reducing variations across jurisdictions
  • better articulating the performance-based requirements
  • examining ways to enhance administration, compliance and enforcement systems
  • examining the BCA’s approach to property protection from fire, in dialogue with interested parties, in order to resolve differences
  • examining ways to reduce the erosion of a national approach to building regulation caused by actions of Local Governments through their planning powers
  • applying rigorous analysis to incorporating environmental requirements in the BCA.

The Australian Government, as well as the State and Territory Governments, should continue to be actively involved in building regulation reform (including funding).

A new Intergovernmental Agreement should be negotiated by all nine governments, so as to:

  • clarify the Australian Building Codes Board’s mission statement and objectives of building regulation reform
  • strengthen the commitment to national consistency
  • affirm the importance of a whole-of-government approach to building regulation initiatives
  • outline the future work agenda, drawing on recommendations contained in this study
  • emphasise the importance of the Australian Building Codes Board giving priority to its core business
  • strengthen the use of regulatory impact analysis
  • agree to shared and increased funding and removal of some charges for the BCA.

The Australian Government, as well as the State and Territory Governments, should continue to be actively involved in reform of building regulation, according to a report released by the Productivity Commission.

The report - Reform of Building Regulation - responds to a request by the Australian Government to examine the contribution reform of building regulation has made and further reform could make to the performance of the building and construction industry.

The Commission found that the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has made progress in reducing regulatory differences across jurisdictions and in basing the Building Code of Australia (BCA) on performance requirements. However, there is scope for further reforms to building regulation to enhance productivity and to benefit the broader community.

Commissioner Tony Hinton said: ‘The core work of the ABCB in maintaining and updating the Building Code should be given higher priority. In addition, steps are needed to counter recent developments expanding the coverage of building regulation in a way that is eroding a nationally consistent and soundly-based approach to building regulation‘.

The Commission found that the future work agenda should also include continuing to reduce differences in building regulations across jurisdictions and better articulating the performance-based requirements. The agenda should also be extended into such areas as: examining ways to enhance compliance and enforcement systems; reviewing the BCA’s approach to property protection from fire; and applying rigorous analysis to proposals for incorporating environmental requirements in the BCA.

The Commission considers that a new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) should be negotiated by the nine governments to take forward the future building regulation reform agenda. This IGA could also: clarify the objectives of building regulation reform; strengthen the commitment to national consistency; and also affirm the importance of a whole-of-government approach to building regulation.

Cover, Copyright, Terms of reference, Contents, Abbreviations and explanations, Overview, Findings and recommendations

1 Introduction
1.1 Scope of the study
1.2 Conduct of the study
1.3 Previous reviews
1.4 Problems and issues
1.5 Structure of the report

2 Legal framework, the ABCB and the BCA
2.1 Regulation of the building process
2.2 Role of State and Territory Governments
2.3 Role of Local Governments
2.4 Role of the Australian Government
2.5 ABCB
2.6 BCA

3 Assessment criteria
3.1 Background
3.2 Rationale for government intervention
3.3 Effectiveness
3.4 Efficiency
3.5 Research and information provision
3.6 National consistency
3.7 Good regulation and regulatory governance

4 Impact of reforms
4.1 State of the industry
4.2 Building industry productivity
4.3 Sources of productivity change
4.4 Impact on economic efficiency

5 Building Code of Australia
5.1 Are the IGA objectives appropriate?
5.2 Assessing the ABCB’s performance in meeting IGA objectives

6 Code coverage
6.1 Non-BCA mandatory requirements impacting on building
6.2 Access for people with disabilities
6.3 Plumbing and gas installation
6.4 Electrical installation and telecommunications
6.5 Occupational health and safety
6.6 Sustainability and the environment
6.7 Property protection from fire
6.8 Local Government requirements on building

7 Regulatory systems: compliance and delivering outcomes
7.1 Administrative systems - history and issues
7.2 Training
7.3 Practitioner licensing, accreditation and audit
7.4 Insurance
7.5 Building approvals, inspections and occupancy approvals
7.6 Enforcement and dispute resolution
7.7 Maintenance
7.8 Regulatory systems - national consistency?
7.9 Future role of the ABCB

8 Code making processes and access
8.1 Regulation making: the Code and standards
8.2 Accessing the Code

9 Other activities of the Board
9.1 Research
9.2 Raising awareness of the Code
9.3 Use of guidelines
9.4 National product certification
9.5 International cooperation and collaboration

10 Governance issues
10.1 Issues raised
10.2 Involvement of the Australian Government
10.3 Composition of the ABCB and committees
10.4 ABCB funding
10.5 Commitment to national consistency
10.6 Authority of the decision-making body
10.7 Independence of the decision-making body and the secretariat

11 Assessment and new IGA
11.1 Past performance
11.2 Revised mission statement
11.3 Revised objectives
11.4 Future work agenda
11.5 Support functions
11.6 New IGA

A Submissions and meetings

B Inter Government Agreement

C ABCB Membership

D BCA Objectives

E Building industry

F Survey results and methodology

G State & Territory regulatory systems for building