The NSW Government Discussion Paper ‘Building Stronger Foundations” sets out important reforms for the building industry, says the Urban Taskforce.
“There is no doubt that confidence must be restored to the broader community of the quality control for building construction in the state.” says Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson. “The structural defects in the Opal Building earlier in the year and more recently in Mascot Tower should not have occurred, and new processes must be implemented to better manage building quality.”
“The Building Stronger Foundations discussion paper issued by the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson, is a good document to begin the discussion towards change. While the key recommendations to register all building practitioners, the introduction of a duty of care and the appointment of a Building Commissioner are useful, they need to be tested against the two recent structural defect projects. The Opal tower, for instance had one of the world’s leading structural engineering firms that could easily be registered.”
“Registration of all professions involved in the building process will help lift standards particularly with ongoing training. It could also be worthwhile to look at categories of registration, with taller buildings requiring a higher skill level. The proposal for an industry-wide duty of care will certainly ensure a focus on quality design and construction by all parties.”
“There are also many detailed issues related to the two problem projects that should inform the development of a better system. The Opal project used the Design Construct delivery process where the initial engineer engaged by the developer was replaced by a different engineer by the builder to complete the design and construction of the building. It would be useful to review this process. The Mascot Tower project seems to have had its defect occur 10 years after completion, and the high water table level in the area could have been destabilised. The local council requires all car parking to be in basements below ground but this destabilises the water table leading to settlement problems. On sites with high water tables the government may need to require all parking to be above ground and sympathetically screened.
“The Urban Taskforce supports the recommendations of the Shergold Weir Report as a good basis for reform of the building process. We also support the appointment of a Building Commissioner with appropriate staff. We are however concerned at the suggestion that declared plans would need to be lodged with the Building Commissioner (P16) as the number of plans at any one time for the building industry would be massive. The Commissioner would need a massive staff to undertake this task.”
“One area the Urban Taskforce is very concerned about is the viability of the designers and certifiers as greater duty of care requirements are implemented. We understand that many private certifiers will not be able to get viable Professional Indemnity Insurance from July 1, 2019 and that this whole level within the building process could disappear. This would only leave council or government certifiers or building inspectors to handle a massive work load. An option could be for the NSW Building Commissioner to take over the certifying role across the state with appropriate staff.”
“The Urban Taskforce has been concerned at some statements in the media that a 2012 City Futures survey found that 85 percent of all apartments built since 2000 have had defects. We have looked at this survey that was issued to 20,000 apartment owners with just over 1,000 responses of which 293 were from apartments built since 2000 and a number of these owners said that the defects were fixed. We must improve the apartment building process in NSW but the extent of defects has been exaggerated in some areas.