VBA Mail – August 2019

State Government initiatives addressing combustible cladding are vital for rebuilding public confidence in Victoria’s building system.

A message from the CEO

The VBA welcomes the State Government’s decision to establish Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) to support and fund the rectification of higher-risk apartment buildings, while also undertaking a thorough and necessary review of building policy.

I believe these are important steps for keeping Victorians safe and rebuilding public confidence in our building system, which has been understandably shaken.

I am very proud of the VBA’s cladding audit work and of our input in shaping the Government’s approach to rectification.

I can assure you that the process of identifying at-risk properties, engaging with owners corporations and ensuring action is taken to implement interim safety measures has been a major and unprecedented undertaking.

Equally, issuing Building Notices and Orders to owners to drive the start of those rectification works has been a problematic but crucial undertaking.

However, delaying enforcement action was not an option.

We know the safety risks these buildings pose to the people who live in them, to the people who visit them, to neighbouring properties and to the first responders who are put at risk in the event of a fire.

The establishment of CSV will now enable residents and owners to receive the support and guidance they need to get their buildings fixed and to also maintain safe occupation until those necessary works are completed.

It is important to note that the cladding audit is only one of many wide-ranging actions the VBA has driven over the past 18 months to lower risks to the public and improve industry practice across Victoria.

I am proud to be leading a team with a dogged determination to make sure we do everything we can to prevent a repeat of these past issues.

We have built extensive regulatory networks, working across borders and regulatory boundaries to share intelligence on those who insist on flouting the rules.

I want the industry and the Victorian public to be assured that the VBA I lead is – and will continue – to use every available power we have to enforce compliance.

Practitioners whose conduct has not met the required standard are being increasingly challenged to justify their practices and standards, with strict sanctions later imposed to moderate or prevent their future industry participation.

On 1 July, Victoria’s new building permit and levy system came into effect, alongside the VBA’s BAMS platform, which supports the issuing of building permit numbers and has been well-received.

From this base, I intend to seek, via the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, regulatory change to require all supporting documentation to be attached through the permit process, as the next big step in real-time regulatory information.

On behalf of industry, we sought clarification from the Australian Building Codes Board on the interpretation of the low-rise construction concession.

I am pleased to see that national clarification has occurred as a result of our advocacy. Notwithstanding the Advisory Note status of the clarification, we will regulate industry to this standard.

We are determined that our visible presence on sites under construction is increased, and I am pleased to report that for the 2018–19 financial year, our team achieved 8318 inspections.

Importantly, we are now consistently being seen at 10 per cent of sites under construction to highlight the fundamental importance of compliance and safety across the industry.

I believe the focus of our monitoring and enforcement activity, as well as the recent appointment of Victoria’s State Building Surveyor, Mr Andrew Cialini, represent a pivotal point in building regulation in Victoria.

On Thursday, 10 October 2019, Mr Cialini will lead a free whole-of-industry training session focusing on accelerating industry compliance with the key performance requirements of the Code.

Professional indemnity insurance is another major challenge already spreading to building insurance more broadly.

But insurers will only underwrite the building industry in the future if they have assurance that Victoria’s regulatory framework will be reformed with speed, that the regulator is adequately resourced and continues to actively manage risks, and that industry is taking genuine responsibility for safety and the quality of its work.

I came into this role determined to take responsibility for changing the VBA into the regulatory organisation it should be.

While my team and I have acted quickly to set a new regulatory standard, it is patently clear that this organisation alone cannot stamp out the culture that has enabled an element of the industry to deliver sub-standard building work across Victoria and then simply walk away from their responsibilities.

We look forward to working alongside all levels of Victoria’s building sector to drive urgently needed cultural changes that will create a building and construction sector that can be rightly proud of itself, and one that all Victorians can respect and trust.

Victorians expect no less of us all.

Sue Eddy
Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Building Authority

In this edition...

Professional indemnity insurance changes ease restrictions on Victoria’s building surveyors, inspectors

Building surveyors and inspectors can now hold professional indemnity insurance with exclusions, following commencement of a recent Ministerial Order.

Victorian Government to release list of trades prioritised for registration and licensing in October

The Victorian Government will release a list of building trades prioritised for registration and licensing in October, following consideration of feedback received during the first public consultation on the Trades Registration framework.

Have your say: Swimming pool and spa regulations

The Victorian Government is proposing to make the registration, inspection and certification of swimming pools and spas mandatory across the state. Industry and the community are invited to comment on the Regulatory Impact Statement and proposed regulations by 6 September.

VBA partners with Cladding Safety Victoria to accelerate pace of rectification works

Works to replace combustible cladding on 15 multi-storey buildings across Victoria have begun, after the State Government established a dedicated agency to support building owners and owners corporations through the rectification process.

ABCB Advisory Note clarifies NCC concession clauses

The ABCB has issued an Advisory Note clarifying the application of concessions permitting the use of timber framing in some low-rise class 2 and 3 buildings of Type A and B construction.

Demolishers warned about major domestic building contracts and company registration

The VBA is aware that some demolition companies are entering into major domestic building contracts without holding company registration as a building practitioner.

Certification body for CodeMark, WaterMark schemes suspended

CertMark International, a building product certification body, has had its accreditation suspended. The suspension commenced on 10 July 2019.

Licensed plumbers to face additional inspections if work found to be non-compliant

Licensed plumbers whose work fails a routine compliance audit will face an additional inspection within four weeks, as the VBA seeks to improve industry behaviour.

Gasfitters should always check the manufacturers’ installation instructions before installing gas cooking appliances

Inspectors from Energy Safe Victoria are identifying increasing numbers of gas cooktop installations with inadequate clearances between the gas cooktop and combustible surfaces.

BAMS brings greater accountability, new obligations

When Victoria’s Building Activity Management System launched on 1 July 2019, the Victorian Building Authority was quietly confident that industry would make the transition with ease.

Names, registration numbers required for all advertising and offers relating to domestic building work

If you are promoting your services as a domestic builder or providing written quotes to customers for domestic building work, you must make it clear you are a registered building practitioner.

Protection of vegetation on and around building sites

Building industry professionals need to ensure vegetation on building sites and adjoining properties is protected when allotments fall under a vegetation protection overlay.

New fire safety engineering research calls for major overhaul to guidelines, practices and methods

Fire safety design and verification methods should be clearly defined, with neither process interfering with the other, new research from the Warren Centre recommends.

Inspiring the next generation of building surveyors

The VBA is taking steps to encourage secondary school leavers to pursue rewarding careers in building surveying.

VBA offers valuable career advice to young builders

Over the past few months, the VBA has been attending industry open days at TAFEs across the state, offering young builders valuable career advice and information on the registration process.

Q3 2018–19: VBA Actions report card

A summary of the VBA’s compliance and enforcement activities between 1 January and 31 March 2019.