In light of ongoing residential apartment block quality fails, a fundamental overhaul of building regulation that improves compliance, accountability and better protects consumers has ben set out in the Australian Institute of Architect’s response to the NSW Government’s Building Stronger Foundations discussion paper.

The Institute has put forward 25 recommendations addressing the full building design and delivery process, and all those who play a role in it, proposing solutions to end the shortcomings that have seen quality too often forsaken resulting in poor safety and economic outcomes for consumers.

While supporting a number of the measures put forward by the NSW Government the Institute has identified gaps in the approach and proposals to overcome them including:

  • Bringing developers into the regulatory regime, with a statutory duty of compliance and ongoing duty of care to subsequent owners
  • Enhancing the quality and thoroughness of documentation required to adequately cover safety and compliance risks before building work commences
  • Introducing a statutory requirement that apartment buildings be built in accordance with detailed documentation, ensuring alignment between the as-designed building and the as-built building
  • Introducing a holistic, independent inspection and certification regime to provide independent oversight of construction techniques and oversight of adherence to codes, standards and council approvals through an on-site independent inspection regime that includes a clerk of works and an on-site architect
  • Graduating the regulatory system to direct stronger regulation to higher risk areas such as complex multi-storey buildings.

NSW Chapter president Kathlyn Loseby said the Institute had consistently supported government proposals to better and more extensively regulate a broader range of building professionals, including mandating insurance and education requirements, legislating a duty of care and appointing a Building Commissioner.

“Currently, anyone in Australia can procure and construct an apartment building. No evidence of any education, of any experience, of any suitability or capacity, or of insurances held is required. This is completely unacceptable and must urgently change,” says Loseby. 

“We welcome efforts to improve compliance but they must go hand in hand with significant improvements in the rules that govern construction in this country,” says Loseby.

“Previously, we used to have independent and rigorous checks in place where an architect would oversee the design, materials choice and construction to ensure compliance.”

“Over the years, this role has been whittled away in a culture that prioritises time and cost-saving over quality.”

“We need this type of role back in the construction process of complex buildings to ensure there is quality assurance throughout design and development,” she says.