State Building Surveyor Technical Update

Hello and welcome to our very first Technical Update of 2021.

It’s been encouraging to see the building sector refresh and begin to recover from the year that was 2020. Although not yet out of the woods, there’s a lot to look forward to in what should be a much more productive and settled 12 months ahead.

For the VBA, 2021 is already shaping up to be a busy year. We are working with industry and a number of government departments to overcome various challenges, advancing work across the sector by heading up the introduction of the practitioner masterclass series, a stakeholder review of the industry, simplifying orphaned permits, and the introduction of the IntegrityVBA hotline, just to name a few.

Preparations are well and truly underway for the third annual conference in just a couple of weeks’ time. The conference continues to grow in popularity and in responding to feedback from last year’s conference, we have designed a program of keynote speakers, panel discussions and regulatory updates from the VBA. You are invited to register.

I wanted to thank you all for the commitment you have shown to the sector during this challenging period. I look forward to continuing working with you in 2021 and wish you all a great year.

Kind regards,

Andrew Cialini
State Building Surveyor
Victorian Building Authority


Building Surveyors’ Conference 2021

This year’s conference will be held online over two days, hosted and facilitated by the Director of Weir Legal and Consulting, Bronwyn Weir.

Other speakers of note include:

  • Dame Judith Hackitt – Chemical engineer and Chair of Make UK
  • Anna Cronin – Victoria's Commissioner for Better Regulation and Red Tape Commissioner
  • The Hon. Richard Wynne – Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing.

The program for our third Annual Conference is now available. This year, industry experts and academics from Australia and abroad will address the 2021 theme, Reset. Rebuild.

The conference will focus on how stakeholder collaboration can transform the landscape of the building industry.

Day 1: Monday, 22 February 2021 – 2 pm to 5 pm (Theme: Reset)
Day 2: Tuesday, 23 February 2021 – 9:30 am to 12:30 pm (Theme: Rebuild)

How: Register online.


Cladding update

Last week, Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, announced a prohibition on flammable aluminium composite panels and rendered expanded polystyrene as external wall cladding on all future multi-storey developments in Victoria.

The ban prohibits the use of these products on apartment buildings, and other residential buildings, such as hotels and aged care facilities with two or more storeys. The ban also applies to the use of these products on office buildings, shopping centres or other retail premises, warehouses, factories and car parks with three or more storeys. It supports Victoria’s cladding rectification program, working to limit the risk these dangerous products pose to the community.

This will have major implications on the industry, changing building practices across the board, while non-compliant builders risk fines of up to $40,000 – the VBA will head up enforcement on this. Read the Minister's Advisory Note on the ban here.

Many of you would have received an email from the VBA detailing changes to the way the cladding rectification levy (CRL) is applied to certain building works. These changes came into effect on 1 February and changes relate to buildings with multiple classes of building work. To learn more and find out how to accommodate these changes, visit the VBA website.

In December, Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) was established as a statutory corporation and an authority of the Victorian Government in its own right. This is a great move that enhances CSV’s capability with the resources and expertise needed to lead the important work of cladding rectification. With the separation now complete, the VBA will continue working closely with CSV, as we partner with apartment owners and owners’ corporations to resolve fire safety challenges specific to every building.


Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors

The Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors commenced on 1 January.

The Code of Conduct lifts the standard and creates a level playing field for the building surveying profession by providing more certainty for all industry players on acceptable behaviours and practices.

To help you, a suite of education resources with building surveyors was released to help them understand the Code. You can read up on the Code and watch the videos below:

If you have any questions, head to the FAQ section on Code of Conduct page, before getting touch with our customer service team:

Telephone - 1300 815 127
Email - customerservice@vba.vic.gov.au

As part of the Code of Conduct, the VBA is working to overcome issues surrounding orphaned permits. In the way of background, issued permits assigned to a building surveyor who is no longer active in the industry can be reassigned to an alternative building surveyor, or in some instances cancelled. I’m excited to reveal that the VBA is in the process of working with councils to simplify this process. We will keep you updated with the status of these proposed changes.


IntegrityVBA

The VBA is committed to delivering on its plans to uphold integrity in the workplace.

Coinciding with the commencement of the Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors on 1 January, the VBA launched its IntegrityVBA initiative, to enable practitioners, suppliers, and the public to make complaints and report integrity matters about the VBA.

With the VBA calling on building surveyors to formalise complaints and conflict handling, it also identified the need for the same process to be formalised at the VBA. We are making a concerted effort to be transparent and accountable, to improve and further enhance how we interact with industry and the public.

Practitioners and the public can now call the hotline on 1300 30 45 64 to make a complaint about VBA products, services, employees and contractors, or the VBA’s handling of a complaint.

More information and resources are available on the IntegrityVBA website.


Contract novation

In light of the Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors that commenced on 1 January 2021, we have received many questions and feedback regarding the issue of contract novation.

Many of the enquiries relate to the ability for a builder to engage a building surveyor directly, the novation of contract implications and the ability for a relevant building surveyor to provide design advice.

The points below may help to clarify some of these issues:

  • For a building work subject to a major domestic building contract, the builder is prohibited from appointing a private building surveyor (PBS).
  • In other circumstances, a building surveyor may be appointed by a builder when there are no obligations that compromise the surveyor’s ability to act independently.
  • A builder may act as an agent on behalf of the owner, for the purposes of applying for a building permit, with written consent.
  • In all cases, the relevant building surveyor (RBS) must act independently and avoid conflict of interest.
  • s.79 of the Building Act provides for the circumstances under which a private building surveyor can be appointed. It is common for practitioners to enter into commercial services contracts that run concurrently with RBS appointment under s.79. It is not appropriate for a commercial services contract to allow for the novation of a building surveyors statutory responsibilities to a third party or include requirements that impede a building surveyor’s responsibility to act independently and avoid conflicts of interest, such as engaging in the design or contributing to efficient and cost-effective project delivery. An RBS may be involved in conversation/consultation during the concept and design phase of the project to provide guidance on the processes to follow to document a performance solution. However, they must exclude themselves when the design options are being discussed in detail. An RBS can recommend a performance solution pathway to resolve a design issue but may not give an opinion or contribute to the design of that solution.
  • It is not a conflict for a designer or engineer to engage in inspecting the work they designed, provided the RBS has been consulted and agrees.