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Coping with the New Regulations in Building and Construction – Energy & Water Sector

Construction Quality 

A 2019 Deakin University study found that 85% of newly constructed, multi-owner residential buildings in Australia had some form of defect.

Water damage was found to be the biggest problem in apartment buildings. Researchers also looked at the regulations surrounding defect management and rectification in residential properties.

Contributing Factors to the Building Defects:

  • Human error
  • Misuse of building products
  • Lack of training
  • Lack of licensing

Restoring Buyer Confidence

“The building commissioner is doing his part to restore confidence in the sector, and noted good developers are using good certifiers and good engineers to alleviate any defects or concerns.”  – Fred Faker Arc Energy Group

Horrendous building failures like Opal Tower and Mascot Towers prompted the decision of the NSW government to provide extra regulatory powers to Building Commissioner, David Chandler.

Since Chandler’s appointment to NSW Building Commissioner in 2019, significant changes have taken place in the construction industry:

  • The Design and Building Practitioners Act, 2020
  • The Residential Apartment Buildings Compliance and Enforcement Act, 2020

The reform aims to encourage practitioners to take individual and collective responsibility for their work. Moreover, it seeks to provide owners with an avenue of recourse in the event of a building defect.

  • Apartment building designers and building practitioners performing design and construction work need to be registered.
  • All construction drawings must be declared by a designer and uploaded to a public online portal.
  • Before occupancy, the developer must declare that the final property build matches the submitted drawings, in every detail.

Energy Efficiency & Hot Water Flow requirements  

The National Construction Code (NCC)

The National Construction Code (NCC) sets out the requirements for the design and construction of a building in Australia, including plumbing and drainage.

A building, plumbing or drainage solution will comply with the NCC if it satisfies the relevant Performance Requirements. These include:

  • Deemed-to-Satisfy (DTS) Provisions
  • Verification Methods
  • Performance Solutions

Changes are coming for all three volumes of the NCC, and implementation will take place on September 1, 2022. The proposed update falls in line with the targets set out in the Australian government’s Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings. The changes are seen as an important step towards more healthy and comfortable homes for Australian families.

“More energy-efficient houses provide a win-win-win opportunity in terms of jobs, energy savings and emission reduction, and are essential as we progress towards a zero-carbon future. Australia’s homeowners and tenants need certainty that they are gaining the health, comfort, efficiency and environmental benefits that they could reasonably expect.”   – Professor Ken Maher AO, President, ASBEC

NCC Changes to Plumbing and Drainage Regulations

The proposed residential energy efficiency provisions for NCC 2022 include changes to the Performance Requirements and compliance options. They also include changes that will impact the plumbing industry.

  1. Limiting Lead In Plumbing Materials

92 per cent of health professionals and plumbing suppliers agree that lead content in products that come into contact with drinking water should be reduced.

Currently, the use of lead in plumbing products is permitted by Australian Standards. Some products that come in contact with drinking water can contain up to 6 percent lead. The proposed limitations will see maximum levels of 0.25 per cent for all new copper alloy products which come into contact with drinking water.

  1.           Quantification of Performance Requirements

Performance Requirements have been quantified across several areas. Quantification related to plumbing and drainage include:

  • Flow rate and pressure
  • Water efficiency
  • Sanitary plumbing
  • Microbial growth

Regulatory Pressure

Developers and builders are facing regulatory pressure from their local council and the Building Commissioner. With the coming NCC changes, expert consultation will be required to stay compliant.

Best Practices vs. Industry Standards 

Currently, developers must ensure that hot water doesn’t take more than 30 seconds to get to an apartment. Arc Energy has been providing hydraulic reviews to illustrate more efficiencies for builders and developers. The outcome for all occupants is no fast hot water and higher energy efficiency.

Best practices are a set of guidelines, ethics or ideas that represent the most efficient or prudent course of action. Standards are often set forth by an authority, such as a governing body or management, depending on the circumstances. While best practices generally dictate the recommended course of action, some situations require that industry best practices be followed.

Arc Energy, Australia’s leading managed network provider, helps developers ensure that guidelines and best industry standards are met. They can peer review and design best practice outcomes and provide professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective.