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Urgent reforms needed to stop defective apartment construction in NSW

Overdue reforms in the NSW construction industry are needed to ensure the integrity of new apartment builds, according to the Association of Accredited Certifiers (AAC).

AAC CEO, Jill Brookfield said the recent structural issues with the Opal Tower in Homebush must drive change in the industry, but a ‘cab rank’ system for certifiers is not the answer.

“For too long, governments in NSW have failed to act to ensure robustness and accountability in the apartment construction industry in NSW,” said Brookfield.

“Under current regulations there is no requirement for structural or services engineers to undertake inspections of structural or services elements in buildings.

“As well as this, builders do not need to appoint qualified persons to oversee the installation of elements of the building, instead they rely on self-certification by the subcontractors and some engineers.

“This means that it falls to developers and builders to decide what they want engineers to inspect during construction. This works part of the time, however accountability must rest with those carrying out the actual work.”

Brookfield said the options canvassed in a recent NSW Government options paper into certifier independence, including a ‘cab-rank’ system, will not address the real issue of accountability.

“All of the proposed options, including a ‘cab-rank’ system, will make the NSW planning approvals and development systems more complex, costly and less effective for customers, developers and the community,” said Brookfield.

“Additionally, the inability to choose the certifier with the most appropriate qualifications and experience increases the risks of creating unsafe buildings.

“These proposals do not address the real issue – accountability. Every building practitioner, including at the design stage and during the construction stage, must be made accountable for their role within a building project.”

For more than 15 years, the AAC has been calling on government to require the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to mandate the wider licensing of building designers, subcontractors and engineers and to mandate their involvement in the construction process through registration with the Building Professionals Board.

This has also been recommended in previous reports by Maltabarow and Lambert.
“AAC is calling for the accreditation of all persons involved in the design and construction process under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and Building Professionals Act, which was the original intention of the legislation, however never enacted by government,” Brookfield said.

“These are all common-sense measures that other jurisdictions have introduced, and the NSW community would be amazed they are not required under the current NSW laws.”

Brookfield also said despite a common misconception, certifiers are not required to inspect structural elements of construction.

“Accredited certifiers do not supervise building work and do not act as a clerk of works,” Brookfield said.

To find out more about the role of Accredited Certifiers and AAC, visit: www.accreditedcertifiers.com.au

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