WA Government Issues Bulletin On Performance Solutions
This month, the Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Building and Energy has released a bulletin to discuss ‘guidance on developing performance solutions for housing projects.’
The document provides background on key considerations building professionals should consider when developing compliant and effective solutions. Furthermore, it highlights ‘the whole-of-life cost’ in developing such a solution.
Table of Contents
Guidance on developing performance solutions for housing projects
We spoke with Brian Cameron, Hendry’s State Manager for Building Surveying in Western Australia. He said that a major concern in the industry is ‘poor installation or workmanship, which is NOT carried out according to manufacturers’ installation manuals and associated building regulations.’
Owners of residential properties – either existing or under construction – may feel concerned about any works or solutions. In this case, Brian advises to ‘employ the services of a registered building surveyor to carry out an audit of the building construction at various key stages. In addition, owners should ensure that all workmanship has been carried out in accordance with the National Construction Code (NCC) and any relevant Australian Standards. The WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety look after complaints relating to these matters.’
Site-specific performance solutions
The WA Department stresses that ‘performance solutions are site-specific.’ Furthermore, performance solutions ‘should not be used as a pseudo “Deemed-to-Satisfy Solution” or used as a last-minute fix to poor design or construction.’
This statement follows recent concerns raised within the industry over current performance solution guidelines. As stated in the NCC Volume 2 concerning residential properties, there are particular applications of the Codes when developing site-specific solutions for:
- Termite management
- Corrosion protection
- Gutter installation
- Weatherproofing and masonry (e.g. flashings above and below windows and at slab level)
- Waterproofing of bath and shower installations
The department has identified these areas that require further clarification. Because ‘developing a performance solution can be complex.’
Brian Cameron added, ‘It can be hard in these particular areas for building surveyors to be aware of any shortcomings unless the owner employs them to audit the construction. Currently, in WA there are no legislated mandatory inspections for Class 1 residential buildings.’
For example, termite management across residential property classifies under part 3.1.3 of NCC Volume 2. This section of the NCC focuses on the impact of termites on ‘primary building elements’. Namely, load-bearing timber. In this case, performance requirements are satisfied if ’a termite management system is installed in a class 1 or 10 building to minimise the risk of termite attack to primary building elements in accordance with AS 3660.1.’ However, suppose a builder does not adequately cater for this performance requirement. In that case, it won’t be easy to apply a satisfactory performance solution after construction completion.
Experts and state registration
Mr Cameron also highlighted his concern that some experts are not required to be registered with state accreditation bodies or registrars in WA.
‘Building surveying practitioners, builders, painters, plumbers and electricians must be registered in WA. However, other trades such as concrete workers, bricklayers, tilers, roof carpenters, roof tilers and associated trades are not required to be registered. In WA, you can have a dwelling built to lock up stage without the involvement of a registered tradesperson. The foundation is the most important part of any dwelling. The foundation can be completed by virtually anyone, as no registered trades are required,’ he said.
In Australia, building surveyors are generally responsible for approving a performance solution as part of issuing a certificate of design compliance. However, the bulletin notes that some performance solutions may also require approval from a relevant authority before the certificate can be approved and issued.
Registered building surveyors and performance solutions
Where the assistance of an expert or experts is required, it is ultimately the role of a registered building surveyor to determine ‘whether the person undertaking an expert judgement is an expert’. Furthermore, it is their responsibility to ‘evaluate whether their area of expertise is ‘directly relevant to the performance solution.’
At Hendry, we can provide services across Australia for expert assessment, performance solutions, building surveying and compliance certification. As a result, we can deliver a comprehensive and fully compliant solution across the built environment. As Brian Cameron states, ‘Hendry provides Quality Assurance across all of our performance solutions and can provide a peer review service for other practitioner’s performance solutions.’
When providing a Performance Solution, records of the following information are highly recommended by the WA Department to assist in the delivery of a compliant solution and to provide evidenced justification as required:
- Details of the relevant Performance Requirements.
- Assessment Method(s) used to establish compliance.
- Details of any Expert Judgement. This must include the expert’s qualifications and experience, justification for their assessment and the ‘extent to which the judgement was relied upon.’
- Details of any test or calculations used to determine the solution and its compliance.
- Details of any standards or other information which were relied upon.
It is a requirement that a performance solution is identified and detailed on the plans and specifications forming part of a building permit application.
The bulletin provides further clarification on current industry guidelines recommended by the WA Department. In addition, the bulletin refers to the Australian Building Codes Board ‘Development of Performance Solutions’ guidelines and ‘Understanding the NCC’ for assistance in using the various assessment methods outlined in the NCC.