The Australian steel industry has introduced a dedicated scheme to enable building design professionals and specifiers to assure steelwork for construction works is fit for purpose and aligned to address potential risk factors.
After a year of program development, Australia finally has a robust compliance scheme in place providing third party certification of fabricated steelwork similar that that operating in many developed countries.
Developed by the peak body representing the complete national steel supply chain, the Australian Steel Institute (ASI), the scheme responds to increasing concern across industry over the use of building materials which are not adequate in the absence of an independently certified compliance regime.
The risks are real
Of concern to all stakeholders is recent evidence from the Federal Government sponsored Australian Industry Group survey within Australia over the past year that found most reporting non-compliant building construction products with 97 percent of steel industry respondents encountering non-conforming product in the supply chain.
The ASI is aware that non-compliant construction products have caused the collapse of steel structures, affected the integrity of glass panels and windows and through fraudulent supply, delamination of engineered timber. This is of concern to the safety of the structures that architects specify and engineers design.
Distinct from the safety aspects, the building and construction industry is becoming aware of the cost of rework, disruption and commercial risk associated with non-compliance and this is supported by the recently released Australasian Procurement and Construction Council working group report Procurement of Construction Products – A guide to achieving compliance to which the ASI contributed.
Key parts of scheme
The new National Structural Steelwork Compliance Scheme (NSSCS) is based on the European/UK CE Marking scheme as a risk based fit-for-purpose approach to steelwork compliance. New Zealand is in parallel introducing a similar compliance program later this year based on the same philosophy as in Australia. The new independent body, Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA) was established mid-2014 and has commenced auditing fabricators for compliance with about 20 so far registered.
The NSSCS is supported by four pillars for a holistic approach:
Fabrication Standard: The first step has been to create a fabrication Code of Practice (CoP) that gives the compliance body something to check against. The CoP is currently being reviewed by the Standards Australia committee structure into a new Australian Standard AS5131 for fabrication and erection of structural steelwork. In the meantime the CoP is being used to guide industry towards improved compliance outcomes.
Conformity Assessment: This ASI document provides a project level definition of what documentation is required to show conformance. Conformity assessment is not part of Standards Australia’s brief and is therefore not included in the Standard.
Construction Categories: These are derived from a risk assessment matrix based on safety and complexity of construction. They provide for an assessment of compliance based on risk determined by the engineer.
Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA): The auditing authority to ensure that the fabricator is certified with the capability for the required construction category. Fabricators as well as developers, builders, contractors and engineers can access information via the SCA website at http://www.scacompliance.com.au/.
While the project engineer has the main role in nominating the construction or risk category, architects and specifiers should reinforce compliance by ensuring that the construction specification has suitable wording to reference the CoP/Standard and the necessary project-specific detail selections. In most cases, the scope already covered in the CoP/Standard will allow project specifications to be much simpler and ‘standardised’.
The architect has a role to play by ensuring all drawings and design documentation clearly call up the CoP. In this respect, architects can reference the implementation guidance prepared for engineers (ASI Tech Note TN011) available from http://steel.org.au/elibrary/asi-technical-notes/.
For further information contact Dr Peter Key on [email protected]