Non-conforming building products
Practitioners involved in building work have a responsibility to ensure that the right products and materials are used in the right way. Products that do not meet these requirements are sometimes referred to as non-conforming building products or non-complying building products.
Non-conforming building products (NCBPs) are products and materials that:
- claim to be something they are not;
- do not meet required standards for their intended use; or
- are marketed or supplied with the intent to deceive those who use them.
For example a building product that is labelled or described as being non-combustible but which is combustible is a NCBP.
Non-compliant building products are products and materials that are used in situations where they do not comply with the requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC). This may include products that comply with the relevant standards in terms of testing and/or marking, but have been used in a location or situation for which the NCC states they are not suitable.
An example of a NCP would include a building product that is combustible, and described as such, but is used in a situation where a non-combustible product is required under the NCC, so it is not fit for purpose and is therefore a non-complying product.
A building product or material can therefore be both non-conforming and non-complying.
What can be done to avoid non-conforming building products?
The risk of using non-conforming building products can be reduced by taking the following steps when specifying or using building products:
- specifying or using materials, products and systems that have widely recognised industry certification, accreditation or relevant testing results, such as CodeMark or WaterMark certification;
- independently checking that certification, accreditation or testing results demonstrate the necessary conformity or compliance, and undertaking product assurance if in doubt;
- checking that the product or material supplied and installed is what is nominated in the approved plans and specifications.
National Construction Code requirements for verifying product conformity and compliance
The NCC is a uniform set of technical provisions for the design, construction and performance of buildings. It is comprised of:
- the Building Code of Australia (BCA) – Volumes One and Two of the NCC; and
- the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) – Volume Three of the NCC.
The general provisions regarding the acceptance of design and construction are found in Part A2 of Volumes One and Three and Part 1.2 of Volume Two of the NCC. These sections of the NCC can be accessed and downloaded from the Australian Building Codes Board website.
Clause A2.2 lists several types of evidence that can be used to verify that a product conforms or complies with the NCC:
- Report issued by a registered testing authority that demonstrates suitability of the use of the material or form of construction.
- Current Certificate of Conformity issued under the Codemark or Watermark scheme.
- Current Certificate of Accreditation issued by a State or Territory Accreditation authority (in Victoria by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee).
- Certificate from an appropriately qualified person such as an engineer.
- Certificate from a product certification body accredited by Joint Accreditation Scheme of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ).
- Other forms of documentary evidence which demonstrates the suitability for use in a building of a material or form of construction and is deemed acceptable by the relevant decision maker(s).
There are a range of methods and schemes that can be used to test and prove that a building product or material is genuine and will do what it is made to do.
A detailed list and description of each of the schemes can be found in the Australian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) Procurement Guide on the APCC website.
Further information about product requirements
The safety of everyday consumer products and product-related services is governed by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL is adopted nationally through state and territory fair trading legislation. Information about the national consumer product safety system is available on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Product Safety Website.
Specialist regulatory regimes
In addition to planning, building and consumer product regulation, some products and materials are regulated by specialist regulatory regimes.
Energy Safe Victoria provides specialist regulatory oversight for gas and electrical appliances in Victoria and is the gas and electrical safety regulator for Victoria.
National developments in non-conforming building products
Victoria is working with the Commonwealth and other State and Territory jurisdictions on strategies to reduce the risks from NCBPs and non-complying building products and materials.
To find out more about this and any other initiative to support better building, go to the Australian Building Code Board website.
In December 2016, the Building Ministers' Forum (BMF) endorsed the implementation of a package of measures to address the health and safety risks associated with the non-compliant use of cladding in high rise buildings. These reforms will be progressed through the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and will provide continued confidence in Australia's building industry.
Ministers also agreed to accelerate the work of the Senior Officers' Group (SOG) in relation to addressing the health and safety risks posed by NCBPs. Download a copy of the Implementation Roadmap of the SOG's strategies for addressing NCBPs.
On 23 June 2015, the Australian Senate referred the issue of non-conforming building products to the Senate Economics Reference Committee. The Committee released its interim report Safety – not a matter of good luck on 4 May 2016.
The Senate Committee is due to hand down its interim report by 31 August 2017 and the final report by 31 October 2017.
Other information and resources
- For additional information on the Building Ministers' Forum, visit the Australian Government's Department of Industry, Innovation and Science website.
- Read more information about the Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products on the Parliament of Australia website.
- Further information about the National Construction Code can be accessed from the Australian Building Codes Board website.
- For more information about Australian accreditation and building product laboratories, visit National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA).
- To make a general enquiry, please fill in the VBA's online enquiries form (selecting Technical and Regulation from the drop-down list for Nature of Enquiry.
- To make an enquiry about a building product, please email email@example.com.