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