WHAT IS THE BUILDING CODE?
In the world of building new homes, the Building Code is an extremely important document – or set of documents – that has significant influence over everything that happens in the process of building. And at some point in your journey to get a new home, you might well be asking yourself the question ‘what is the Building Code’. There’s obviously going to be a vast array of information that you can find on the web, but here’s a layman’s view of what the Building Code is.
First up, it’s now called the National Construction Code these days, or NCC in its abbreviated form (it was previously referred to as the BCA). The change from calling it the Building Code to the National Construction Code only happened a few years ago as a result of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) trying to streamline and align things across the country, but at the coalface not much has changed.
The Building Code was initiated by the government many many moons ago in an effort to regulate the building industry. As has happened in many industries, as Australia has developed, varying standards of building new homes emerged and consumers and the government alike became frustrated with the conflicting results.
Over time, the government used committees and eventually a board (now called the Australian Building Codes Board, abbreviated to ABCB) to research and put together a set of standards that could be used by builders and the authorities to ensure there was an outcome that was acceptable to everyone.
The NCC is now a very extensive document, covering 3 books totaling well over 1000 pages. The ABCB are constantly reviewing and updating this code, and regular amendments or updates are issued by them. But they don’t actually enforce the standards on the ground – this is done by various authorities in each state, such as the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) in Victoria, and in turn, the relevant building surveyors and inspectors.
This blog isn’t intended to provide an explanation of the composition of the NCC, but as a brief overview, it covers everything from the classification of a site and its properties (soil, wind speed, etc) to the frame of the home, and right through to even the details of a wood heater. And it’s very specific – there’s a whole host of detail at each stage. It will often involve diagrams, tables and sections that explain how it actually works in practice.
And of course, it’s a performance based document, which means that there’s often more than one way of meeting the code – it’s all about making sure the end result performs the way it’s supposed to for the safety and amenity of the users of the building, even if 2 builders use 2 different ways to achieve this.
One comment – it isn’t an Australian Standard. Where a particular area of building requires more detail due to the many aspects of how it could be applied, then an Australian Standard is referred to. An example is concrete slabs – the NCC covers it in detail, but it also refers to the relevant Australian Standard AS 3600 Concrete Structures. This Standard goes into even more detail than the code. There are many of these references to a separate Australian Standard scattered throughout the code.
So the Code is like the encyclopedia in the circle of construction. And it ensures that you get a home that’s going to be safe and comfortable to live in for many years to come. And it’s not optional – rest assured that whoever you get to build your home will have to follow the Code – the permit process ensures that this happens. Of course, there are stories that emerge of so-called builders not doing the right thing, but that’s rare and the relevant authorities are always out there making sure things are happening like they’re supposed to.
You can access your own copy of the NCC here. But even though you’re asking what the building code is, due to its complexity and the building terminology used throughout it, it’s not recommended bedtime reading – we suggest you chat to your builder if you’ve got any specific questions about what’s happening – or what should happen – on your home!
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