This weekend the Victorian Building Interim Regulations 2017 were repealed.  New building regulations have been legislated (Building Regulations 2018) including several changes affecting all Victorian registered building practitioners, the industry within which they operate and those in the community who intend to undertake building work. These regulations will be law for the next ten years.

Recently, the building and construction industry has been under fire over the combustible cladding audits, which has driven the demand for change in regulations. Here at Hendry, we welcome these changes as we endeavour to create safer buildings and communities for all.

THE BUILDING SURVEYING SIDE

When looking at construction sites around Victoria, you may have previously focused on the footings frame, however, with the new regulations in place, there are additional things to be considered regarding waterproofing and fire resisting construction.  Now, when inspecting construction phases as part of a building permit process, lightweight multi story residential and healthcare sites fire resisting plaster walls and sound insulation have become mandatory inspection phases.  Similarly fire resisting service penetrations (pipes and cables etc) are now part of the mandatory inspection process. When the client is performing a fit out, clients can now be more assured that fire resisting construction it is being installed in a compliant manner.

In addition, there have previously been issues with permits lapsing and the new regulations have identified that building surveyors now must give ample notice of lapsing building permits, in a bid to keep that process closed out.

THE SAFETY MEASURES SIDE

Where Essential Safety Measures (ESM) is concerned, there have been significant changes. ESM now appears in Part 15 of the Building Regulations 2018 (BR2018) with an increased responsibility placed on building owners. This means owners now take on more responsibilities e.g. building owners must now sign Annual Essential Safety Measures Reports (AESMR).

The BR2018 legislate that vacant buildings must continue to be maintained including ESM with no exceptions. This is now mandatory requirement.

Building surveyors can issue a Maintenance Schedule (MS), which is essentially a list of ESMs in the building. Formerly, owners had a loop hole to avoid some ESM maintenance requirements.  This loop hole is now closed through mandatory requirements to create a MS.

EFFECTIVE ESM BUILDING CONSTRUCTION

The Relevant Building Surveyor (RBS) must prepare now update a maintenance schedule for an existing building or place in certain circumstances. The RBS must do this when

they amend an occupancy permit or issue a maintenance determination as part of certificate of final inspection.  The determination must comply with new Regulation 220, and the owner must provide all relevant records to assist the RBS to prepare it.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AN OCCUPANCY PERMIT AND A CERTIFICATE OF FINAL INSPECTION

An occupancy permit is a document that indicates that the building surveyor deems that the building has been completed to a point where the building is fit for occupation.  The Occupancy Permit (OP) is needed in three different scenarios:

  • Firstly, when constructing a new building;
  • Secondly, when a building is undergoing major alterations and more than 50% of the building is changed;
  • And lastly, when the building is undergoing change of use i.e. the classification has changed e.g. office building to apartment building etc.

If a building is used for something other than what it was originally approved, an occupancy permit is required.

In contrast, the Certificate of Final Inspection (CFI) is required when assessable but minor building work is done.

Until recently, building surveying and essential safety measures have been kept relatively separate. However, now building surveyors must keep an ESM list for a building.

AESMR

Previously the agent or the owner of a building would be able to sign the AESMR, however, the new changes require the AESMR to be signed by the owner.  An agent of the owner can no longer be authorised to undertake this task. This is a factor that could go unnoticed, but it makes quite a significant impact and owners must be aware of this. In other changes regarding AESMR, previous reports must be kept for ten years, as council have the right to order from you any copy within those ten years. It Is still not mandated in Victoria to send the council the report after completing it. In the case of investigation by the council, they will ask for the AESMR first.

KEY POINTS TO BE CONSIDERED

The OP should be checked for unfamiliar ESM items, this could include:

  • clearing out drainage every three months, which must be aligned with the fire engineering reports or specific traffic hazard management procedures and controls.

When using AS1851-2012, full function fire tests are mandatory, and this must be done appropriately. Emergency planning and evacuation procedures are also now part of full function fire tests, so they should be completed in an integrated manner.

ENFORCEMENT CHANGES

Enforcement powers have now been altered to infringement notices and penalties for incorrectly maintaining an ESM being doubled. As well as this, on the spot fines are now allowable and a $320 fine for a building and $720 for a facility – for each individual ESM.

There are many areas in which you can receive an on the spot fine, including:

  • failure to provide the relevant building surveyor with the appropriate documentation to create the maintenance schedule;
  • not submitting information within 24 hours of request from the council.

For further information on the regulatory changes or to discuss how these changes could affect your directly, please contact Hendry at 1800 875 371.