The Building Code of Australia - Your Ultimate Guide
Your Ultimate Guide to the Building Code of Australia (BCA)

Your Ultimate Guide to the Building Code of Australia (BCA)

It’s hard to imagine the construction industry without regulations and standards - they are the reason we are safe and comfortable in our homes and offices.

Ensuring people’s safety and amenity is a high-priority goal: it should be achieved without a fail.

Here is your starting line. You must have a decent understanding of the Building Code of Australia every time you lay your hands on a construction project.

This step-by-step guide is for you if you are an architect, a builder, an engineer, a plumber, a building certifier, a tutor… or plan to become one.

Before we look at the Building Code of Australia, we need to acquaint you with two important acronyms: the NCC and the ABCB.

 

The NCC – The National Construction Code

Image Source: Housing News

The design, construction, and performance of any building involve a wide range of requirements. They must be considered and satisfied by each industry practitioner.

The NCC incorporates all construction requirements in a single code. Being both a legally enforceable and technical document, it outlines the minimum necessary demands for safety, health, amenity, and sustainability.

The goal of the NCC is to apply nationally consistent standards to all on-site construction in Australia. It also ensures that there is no other tested alternative that would be more beneficial and effective.

 

The NCC is published in three volumes:

 Volume One and Volume Two: The Building Code of Australia (BCA).

Volume Three: The Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA).

Image source: Spasa Victoria

There are also accompanying documents, including the Guide to Volume One and the Consolidated Performance Requirements (a collection of the Performance Requirements and the supporting General Requirements for all classes of buildings).

Let’s look inside each volume:

  • Volume One contains the requirements for Class 2 to 9 Buildings.
  • Volume Two contains the requirements for Class 1 and 10 Buildings.
  • Volume Three refers primarily to plumbing and drainage associated with all classes of buildings.

The class of building is determined by its purpose. You can check out the classification of buildings by downloading this useful reference on Building Classifications on ABCB’s Resource library.

 

The Australian Building Codes Board ABCB

The ABCB produces and maintains the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

The Board was established in April 1994, by agreement between the Australian Government and each State and Territory Government. Its main task was to develop a document of regulations to eliminate the legislative maze that people in construction had to work through.

The ABCB is committed to:

  • improving the capacity of the industry;
  • helping building practitioners to use the Code;
  • creating paths to develop Performance Solutions;
  • Quantify (measure) Performance Requirements.

These goals are being achieved through developing changes to the NCC and producing educational and supporting materials. You can access ABCB’s current materials from their Resource Library.

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) released the first performance-based Building Code of Australia in 1996 (it was referred to as BCA96, in short). All states and territories adopted the BCA96 by early 1998. In 2004, it underwent the first amendment and has been released on an annual basis ever since.

However, starting from 2016, the BCA is released once every three years (and comes into effect on May 01 of each year). This decision is backed up by the following major reasons:

  • To make it less complicated for the industry and professionals to stay up-to-date with the BCA regulations.
  • To reduce the number and frequency of changes in building requirements. This will lead to greater consistency and stability in the regulatory system of Australian construction.

The next BCA is due in 2019.

 

The Building Code of Australia – The BCA

The BCA is a set of technical requirements for the design and construction of buildings and other structures throughout Australia. It applies to new buildings and new building work on existing ones.

The BCA also contains provisions for people with a disability and takes into account geological or geographic conditions and climate variations.

The BCA is a performance-based code. This means the standards outlined in the BCA have legal effect to ensure that all construction complies with the minimum requirements of safety, health, amenity, and sustainability.

It should be mentioned that the legal application of the BCA may be either overridden by or subject to State or Territory legislation. Consequently, the BCA must be read in combination with that legislation.

The Structure of the BCA

The structure of the BCA comprises of the following:

  • The Performance Requirements.
  • Performance Solutions and/or Deemed-to-Satisfy Solutions.

Note that this structure is an updated one.

The old diagram was more complicated and crowded. It contained the Objectives and Functional Statements as well as the Assessment Methods.

 

The Old Structure of the BCA

The Updated Structure of the BCA

Image source: Queensland Building and Construction Commission

 

   

Image source: ABCB

 

The new diagram is visibly more precise and clear. It presents the following major sections:

Compliance Level

Performance Requirement is the level of performance which a building solution must satisfy. It is mandatory to comply with the Performance Requirements.

An example of a Performance Requirement is:

Sufficient openings must be provided and distributed in a building so that natural light, when available, provides a level of illuminance appropriate to the function or use of that part of the building. (Source: The Building Code of Australia, Volume 1)

Here is another example:

Laundering facilities or space for laundering facilities and the means for the sanitary disposal of wastewater must be provided in a convenient location within or associated with a building appropriate to the function or use of the building. (Source: The Building Code of Australia, Volume 1)

It is mandatory to satisfy the above-mentioned requirements.

But the BCA allows for a choice when it comes to the means of complying with the Performance Requirements.

The BCA outlines three options to develop a building solution:

  • Using a Deemed-to-Satisfy Solution,
  • Using a Performance Solution, or
  • Using a combination of Performance Solutions and Deemed-to-Satisfy Solutions.

These approaches are presented as Compliance Solutions. They are used to satisfy the Performance Requirements.

It’s important to highlight that each of the above-mentioned pathways is equally valid.

Here is a useful chart to help you understand how to comply with the NCC:

Image source: How to comply with the NCC

Let’s look at each of the compliance solutions.

Using A Deemed-To-Satisfy Solution

Deemed to Satisfy (DTS) provisions are prescribed requirements contained in the BCA. Prescriptive requirements mean – if you follow them, your construction will automatically comply with the Performance Requirements.

These requirements relate to materials, design factors, products, construction and installation methods. However, it is not mandatory that you comply with Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions if you come up with other options to achieve the performance requirements.

Using a Performance Solution

When a solution differs in whole or in part from the Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions, it’s called a Performance Solution. It is unique for each situation.

The goal of practicing a Performance Solution is to provide flexibility of adopting innovative approaches when planning and constructing a building.

Note that even in case alternative solutions are developed, it’s mandatory to achieve compliance with the BCA.

Certain materials on the ABCB website can help you ease the process of formulating both simple and complex performance solutions. You can check out the following document for reference: National Construction Code: Developing Performance Solutions.

Using a Combination of Solutions

Here is an example of using a combination of a Performance Solution and a Deemed-to-Satisfy Solution.

In a school building, a combination solution might use Performance Solutions for issues to do with fire safety while Deemed-to-Satisfy Solutions could be used for sanitary facilities and energy efficiency. (Source: How to Comply with the NCC)

 

Applying Assessment Methods

Let us emphasize again: each building practitioner has the freedom to develop a solution different from the Deemed-to-Satisfy Solution. That’s why, when choosing this pathway, you should also use an appropriate Assessment Method to successfully demonstrate that the performance requirement will be achieved.

The following four Assessment Methods are used to find out whether a building complies with the performance requirements:

  • Evidence of Suitability;
  • A Verification Method;
  • Expert Judgement;
  • Comparison with the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions.

Learn how to comply with the NCC with this four-page, easy-to-follow guide: How to comply with the NCC.

By the way, quantification of the NCC’s Performance Requirements will be a major part of NCC 2019 – this means that measuring and improving the productivity of building processes and outcomes are major goals in the industry.
If you seek explanation on the latest updates to the BCA, check out this detailed video: National Construction Code 2016: Update on the Building Code of Australia.

The presenter Graham Moss will walk you through the updates including:

  • Amendments to the NCC Mandatory general provisions;
  • New verification methods for ventilation and structural robustness;
  • New timber construction requirements;
  • New provisions for farm buildings;
  • Amendments to the Housing Provisions for stairs, ventilation and new requirements for dwellings above garages.

A wide range of resources are available on ABCB’s website. Their Resource Library includes “consultation documents, non-mandatory handbooks, ABCB standards, tools and calculators, videos, awareness resource kits, and other corporate publications”.

 

Your Access to the BCA

Since 2015, the National Construction Code has been made available online – for free. ABCB will no longer produce the printed hard-copy of the BCA.

The goal of this initiative has been to increase awareness of the BCA and encourage its use by all parties in the construction industry.

To get your free online copy you will need to register on the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) website by providing the required information and then confirming your registration by responding to the verifying email. 

To assist your learning, the NCC shares a Resource Kit which “contains an extensive PowerPoint presentation including lecture notes, group activities, and common FAQs.”

This toolkit will also prove to be useful for teachers, lecturers or registered training organisations who strive to deliver up-to-date information to their trainees.

 

So What Now?

Turn your knowledge into a prosperous career. Reap productivity gains and success in any project you turn your hand to.

Understanding the structure and requirements of the NCC is invaluable.

  • It will help you walk all the way to the end of any construction process easily, confidently, and professionally.
  • If you are seeking a new career path or need to upgrade your skill set, it will be great preparation for a building and construction course you will decide to enroll in.

A nationally recognized training provider – Back to Basics – offers courses to teach you how to read building codes and standards and how to apply them to the construction process.

Earning your Certificate or your Diploma is made quick, simple and easy with the help of our first class tutors.

They will support you and challenge you to be the best builder you can be, whilst getting you qualified as quickly as possible.

If you would like more information on the BCA or are interested in upgrading your resume with one of our qualifications, call us on 1300 855 713 or email enquiries@backtobasics.edu.au to find out more.