Technical Update – September 2021
Hello and welcome to the September Technical Update of 2021.
The chance to engage with hundreds of you recently through the VBA’s Practitioner Education Series webinars has offered great insight into some of the challenges and opportunities that exist within our industry. Your enthusiasm and professionalism ensured we were able to host two incredibly valuable webinars on inspections, including one on July 22, which was dedicated entirely to answering your questions.
On July 1, a new engineering registration scheme saw engineers who provide professional engineering services in the areas of structural, civil, electrical, mechanical and fire safety engineering transitioned to the Business Licensing Authority (BLA), supported by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) and the VBA. Building practitioners previously registered by the VBA in these categories were transferred to the new scheme and are now identified as endorsed building engineers rather than registered building practitioners. Your cooperation in assisting with this process was appreciated.
As Victoria’s construction industry grows, so does the VBA’s technical expertise. The appointment of Dr Baher Zaghlool in May as the VBA’s Principal Structural Engineer expands this expertise in a crucial area.
Dr Zaghlool will work to respond to industry needs and help shape and implement future industry reforms by advising the VBA on best practice in managing risk and provide a holistic technical approach to regulation that will improve outcomes across the building industry. I’m sure we will all benefit from Dr Zaghlool’s expertise in the future.
While recent months and indeed recent weeks have had their ups and downs, with new restrictions coming into force for our industry, I wanted to thank you all for the commitment you’ve provided to the sector during these times. I look forward to working with you and keeping you updated on the latest industry information in the months ahead.
Site Inspections and Enforcement – Improving your understanding of mandatory inspections, who can inspect and managing directions to fix
The Site Inspections and Enforcement webinar presented by Bronwyn Weir on May 27 provided us with highly valuable insights into practitioner understanding of mandatory inspections, who can inspect and how or when oral and written directions to fix can be used.
Many of you were among the more than 1100 practitioners who took part in the session, with engineers, domestic builders and private building surveyors the top three practitioner categories in attendance.
From the session, it was clear there was some confusion about what the mandatory inspections process requires. Most notably, there were questions about:
- The acceptable ways a Relevant Building Surveyor (RBS) can be notified to cause the mandatory inspection
- Who can carry out the mandatory inspection?
- What happens if the works proceed without a mandatory inspection being completed?
An overview of the Mandatory Inspection process is shown in the figure below.
We listened to your questions and feedback and dedicated an entire session to answering your questions. On Thursday, July 22, I was joined by Bronwyn Wier, General Manager Engineers Australia Alesha Printz and VBA’s Principal Structural Engineer, Dr Baher Zaghlool
A recording of both sessions are now available on the VBA website.
Section 33 Notifications to the VBA
We are pleased to report that since the site inspections and enforcement webinar on May 27, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Section 33 (S33) notifications from building surveyors to the VBA. This is an important and positive step towards ensuring builders are correctly notifying the relevant building surveyor (RBS) of all building work that requires a mandatory inspection.
Previously, the VBA would only identify S33 offences by builders after receipt of a complaint from a referred Building Order. Typically, the VBA would not have received a notification regarding the offence from the RBS and in most instances, would have had to contact the RBS to remind them to forward this notification to us.
When notifications are received, with all necessary documentation, depending on the seriousness of the offence and history of the builder, the VBA will either issue a Caution or refer the Notification to the VBA’s Practitioner Discipline Unit for consideration.
In light of the recent increase in referrals, more than 60 per cent were referred for further investigation by the Practitioner Discipline unit. More than 30 show causes notices have been issued to builders as a result of these referrals with penalties averaging $4000 per offence for builders who have failed in their obligation to notify the RBS of a mandatory notification stage.
Maintaining regular communication on the progress of work with your RBS and ensuring you notify them when the mandatory inspection stage has been reached will not only save you from potential discipline but will also ensure you avoid the risk of high cost rectification works if the stage is not inspected and approved appropriately.
It is also a timely reminder to building surveyors that active referrals, as required by S33(3) of the Building Act 1993, help the VBA to reinforce your statutory functions as well as mitigating risks in your business practices.
For more information, refer to this fact sheet about what notifications are required during building work.
Professional Engineers Registration Act (PER Act)
On 1 July 2021, the Professional Engineers Registration Act 2019 (PER Act) came into effect. The PER Act introduced a new engineering registration scheme that is co-regulatory, led by the Business Licensing Authority (BLA), supported by Consumers Affairs Victoria (CAV) and the VBA.
Engineers who provide professional engineering services in the areas of structural, civil, electrical, mechanical, and fire safety engineering must now register with the BLA as a professional engineer, unless they work under direct supervision or only in accordance with a prescriptive standard. For those professional engineers who practise in the building industry they must also have an endorsement on their registration to allow them to provide professional engineering services in the building industry.
Building practitioners in the category of engineer that were registered with the VBA on 30 June 2021 were automatically transferred to the BLA on 1 July 2021.
Automatic Mutual Recognition (AMR) – an update
Automatic Mutual Recognition (AMR) is a national scheme allowing certain industries to use their home state occupational registration to work in other, participating Australian states and territories.
Victoria has signed a national Intergovernmental Agreement and passed legislation to participate in the AMR scheme.
This means if someone is licensed or registered in one state or territory to perform an activity, they’ll be able to use the same licence or registration to do the same activities in another part of Australia, subject to some exceptions. When changing states, it won’t be necessary to pay any new fees or lodge any applications, but they will have to notify the state or territory regulator.
Originally proposed for implementation on 1 July 2021, AMR isn’t yet available in Victoria for building practitioners or plumbers. It will come into effect later this year and we will keep you updated on when it is set to commence.
Until AMR takes effect for building practitioners and plumbers, interstate practitioners seeking to work in Victoria must continue to obtain a substantive Victorian registration or licence or have been approved under the existing mutual recognition scheme.
We’re working to keep our practitioners informed about the progress of AMR and when it will be introduced in Victoria.
Victorian practitioners who wish to practice in another state or territory under the AMR scheme should contact the relevant interstate regulator to check whether the scheme has commenced in that jurisdiction.
For more information visit the AMR webpage.
Get to know the new Mandatory Performance Solution requirement
From 1 July 2021, where a Performance Solution is proposed to satisfy a Performance Requirement of the National Construction Code (NCC) 2019 Amendment 1, the process under Clause A.2.2(4) must be followed.
This change means that the same steps must be followed for Performance Solutions, ensuring they are adequately developed and documented.
Clause A2.2(4) applies when using all the Assessment Methods, including a CodeMark Certificate for Conformity as evidence of suitability to demonstrate compliance with the Performance Requirements. It’s recognised that this may be a change to previous practice, however compliance with Clause A2.2(4) need not be onerous in all situations. The application of A2.2(4) is commensurate with the complexity of the relevant Performance Solution and the level of detail required to complete the process is typically proportionate to the complexity of the Performance Solution being developed.
The ABCB has provided guidance on how to comply with Clause A2.2(4) when using a CodeMark Certificate of Conformity. The VBA is currently discussing further clarification and advisory information on the application of A2.2(4) and CodeMark.
If you require guidance on how to comply with Clause A2.2(4), you should refer to the material on the ABCB website and the ABCB Performance Solution Process Handbook.
Statutory Role – Direct conflicts of interest
The Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors clearly sets out examples of inappropriate conduct and establishes eight key areas of professional conduct that building surveyors in Victoria must follow.
Among these is avoiding conflicts of interest, with a building surveyor required to take reasonable steps to avoid situations that could be an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest.
Section 79 of the Building Act 1993 and regulations 265(b) of the Building Regulations 2018 also relate to conflicts of interest.
The Office of the State Building Surveyor has been made aware of building surveyors who are issuing fee proposals to clients with scope of works for building permits that offer services that are excluded from a statutory RBS role.
These include services like; proactive participation through the course of a project to source and consider the best building solutions and providing compliance pathways, are outside the scope of the RBS’ role.
Managing Conflicts of Interest is important for all practitioners and especially for building surveyors performing a statutory function. It’s how we all continue to represent our respective professions that will restore consumer confidence in the building industry. As we see most building surveyors adapting their practices to comply with the Code, so too should designers, engineers and builders look to enhance their professional standards to achieve improved public safety and compliance outcomes for Victoria.
A refresher on the Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors, which outlines the requirements for professional conduct, including potential conflict of interest and clarification of the role of the RBS in the development and design of construction works is available here.
For more information about the Code of Conduct, visit the VBA website
2021 NCC Seminar videos and 2022 NCC draft comments
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released free videos on key topics from the 2021 National Construction Code (NCC) Seminars on its YouTube channel for practitioners who couldn’t attend the seminars this year or want a refresh on some of the key topics.
The ABCB has also sought public comment on all draft NCC 2022 content through their online Consultation Hub.
The NCC is updated every three years, based on required regulatory practices, industry research, public feedback provided and policy directions from governments to the ABCB between publishing cycles.
Some of the more significant amendments developed for the next edition of the NCC include draft provisions relating to accessible housing, proposed amendments concerning allowable lead levels for certain plumbing products that contact drinking water and bushfire protection for non-residential buildings, among other topics.
To learn more about the NCC consultation process, visit the ABCB website.
Appointment of Dr Baher Zaghlool as VBA Principal Structural Engineer
The VBA has expanded and enhanced its structural engineering expertise through the appointment of Principal Structural Engineer, Dr Baher Zaghlool.
Dr Zaghlool will work to respond to industry needs and help shape and implement future industry reforms by advising the VBA on best practice in managing risk and provide a holistic technical approach to regulation that will improve outcomes across the building industry.
Joining the VBA with a wealth of experience in directing and strategically planning major multidisciplinary building and civil works projects, Dr Zaghlool is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia (FIEAust) and Chartered Engineering Executive of Engineers Australia (EngExec).
In 2007, Dr Zaghlool completed his PhD in structures and earthquake engineering at the University of Canterbury, researching the topic, “Behaviour of three-dimensional concrete structures under concurrent orthogonal seismic excitations.”
The Office of the State Building Surveyor warmly welcomes Dr Zaghlool to the VBA and looks forward to leveraging his expertise to improve building and regulatory outcomes for the Victorian building industry.
A technical note
The VBA reminds plumbing practitioners of the following changes to referenced Australian Standards since the revision of the Plumbing Regulations 2018 and publication of the Plumbing Code of Australia 2019:
- AS 1428.1: 2021 Design for access and mobility - General requirements for access - New building work
- AS/NZS 1571: 2020 Copper- seamless tubes for air conditioning and refrigeration
- AS 2568: 2019 Purity of Medical air produced from on-site compressor systems
- AS/NZS 3500.0: 2021 Plumbing and drainage - Glossary of terms
- AS 4254.1: 2021 Ductwork for air-handling systems in buildings - Flexible Duct
- AS/NZS 5601.2: 2020 Gas Installation - LP Gas installation in caravans and boats for non-propulsive purposes, and Amendment 1, 2021
- AS 2118.1: 2017: Automatic fire sprinkler systems - General systems, Amendment 2
- AS 1546.3: 2017: On-site domestic wastewater treatment units - Secondary treatment systems, Amendment 1
- AS/NZS 5601.1: 2013 Gas installations - General Installations, Amendment 3 and 4
In Victoria, referenced plumbing standards are adopted on the day of publication or amendment unless a transition period applies. Further information on some of these changes is available here.
Please note that the VBA is providing a transition period to 1 September 2022 for the below standards. During the transition period (between now and 31 August 2022), the previous versions of these standards should continue to be used:
- AS/NZS 3500.1: Plumbing and drainage - Water Services – use 2018 edition
- AS/NZS 3500.2: Plumbing and drainage - Sanitary plumbing and drainage – use 2018 edition
- AS/NZS 3500.3: Plumbing and drainage - Stormwater drainage – use 2018 edition
- AS/NZS 3500.4: Plumbing and drainage - Heated Water Services – use 2018 edition
- AS/NZS 4234: Heated Water Systems - Calculation of energy consumption – use 2008 edition.
If you have questions about or require further information regarding the updated standards, please contact the Victorian Building Authority on 1300 815 127 or email email@example.com.
State Building Surveyor
Victorian Building Authority