The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) will move to a three-year code amendment cycle in 2016, easing what has been an annual need for industry to keep up with changes.

The announcement was made with recent reforms adopted by the Australian Building Ministers’ Forum, which also included making access to the National Construction Code (NCC) available online and for free.

The Chair of the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), John Thwaites, said the reform represents an important advance in the Council of Australian Governments’ deregulation agenda.

 “Extending the interval between amendments [to the code] will deliver more certainty and stability about regulatory change to the Australian building and construction industry and is an important deregulatory step,” Thwaites said.

“The Board will now devote resources to simplifying the NCC and making it easier to use.”

The forum requested the ABCB further investigate the possible inclusion of matters concerning telecommunication spaces and pathways in the NCC.

It also agreed to measures that are expected to lead to greater consistency in building regulations across the states and territories, by limiting variations to the NCC.

Industry representatives have applauded the lengthened interval to amendments.

The Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) has pointed out that “the resources and effort needed to produce annual revisions can be re-directed to more useful tasks, and the need for industry to be on top of annual changes has gone.”

In a statement, ACIF added there are other equally important changes in the package of measures that will be welcomed by the industry.

“The performance measures used by the ABCB will change to focus on uptake and use of the NCC, encouraging innovation. State and Territory departures from the NCC, the bane of those who work across borders, will be reduced as a big step towards national consistency. The imposition of higher prescriptive standards than those in the NCC by other authorities, such as local governments, will be limited,” it said.

“Other innovations will focus on more efficient and effective delivery of the NCC on line, enhancing the design and appearance of the Code, increasing harmonisation of the building and plumbing codes, and the development of national practice notes to deliver greater consistency in interpretation.”

The NCC provides model regulations for buildings and plumbing and is given effect through state and territory legislation. It sets minimum requirements for the design, construction and performance of buildings throughout Australia.

The ABCB is a joint initiative of all levels of government in Australia, with the building and plumbing industry. It oversees issues relating to health, safety, amenity and sustainability in building. The Board promotes efficiency in the design, construction and performance of buildings through the NCC.