If you’ve got a hand in the commercial property market, now must feel like a frenetic mix of instability mixing with promising opportunity. A strange cocktail of risk and reward for sure.
On balance, there seems to be a number of reasons Property firms are keeping a close eye on the market and try to seize a promising opportunity: Headlines tell us on a daily basis that prices (much like the proverbial sky) are falling, owners are hasty to offload at a discount to cover their arrears and investors both nationally and across the seas are always hungry to secure a bargain before the trend moves on.
And of course, this trend seems half-stirred into frenzy by COVID-19. The pandemic market left us with the expectation, just as would-be homebuyers are hoping, that the sector will see a flux of assets hit the market and drive prices down further.
Overall, we are definitely seeing a noticeable uptick in investor demand for quality properties in strategic development, hub or CBD locations, particularly in the industrial and retail space, a trend we expect will continue as the initial impact of COVID wanes.
Sentiment from within the industry agrees that “the prevailing slower markets environment will give investors who have a smart mind impetus to buy the properties that are able to compete strongly in the future.”
In the same period, property owners have used this time to undertake med-long term capital upgrade strategies to ensure the longevity and value of their asset in a post-COVID environment.
The prevailing attitude appears to suggest that these properties present strong investment potential, however the viability (or liability) of any individual property is not as clear.
Herein lies the problem, one which I’d like you to try and answer for a moment; which opportunities are the ones worth taking, and which have the investment potential of warm porridge?
Anyone with a chance is looking to buy into commercial property fast before the looming upswing seeks to restore balance. The only problem is, moving too fast is likely to cause a lot of pain down the line.
How do you avoid consequences, liabilities or shortfalls in the longer term?
The proverbial Berocca to avoid what Maddocks Law firm recently called the post-acquisition “hangover”, Technical Due Diligence is classified as “an investigative survey performed by prospective investors during the pre-investment stage of a product or property… that aims to provide insight into the costs and risks involved in the acquisition or sales transaction.”
Broadly speaking, Due Diligence takes in a wealth of considerations and weighs up legal, environmental, risk, technical and financial factors to give an overall view of the viability of the purchase.
Hendry understand that the provision of accurate and timely technical reports on the condition, quality and compliance of buildings and their underlying elements is therefore an essential component in making an informed acquisition, disposal or property management decision.
Being experts in technical matters across the whole-of-life of assets, from design to property compliance, sustainability and asset management uniquely positions us to deliver Technical Due Diligence audits that will deliver definitive data on asset health, compliance and fitness for purpose. With this audit, investors/owners understand if what they are getting is value for money, or if the risks outweigh the benefit.
It is crucial that property owners and developers’ partner with a pragmatic and commercially orientated property expert when embarking on a physical due-diligence process.
“In order for investors to navigate through the Australian market that is experiencing a lot of varied conditions, a careful consideration and independent professional advice will guarantee you a softer landing in the property market.”
Our organisation and its practitioners have an established reputation and proven track record in supporting property owners throughout the lifecycle of an asset, from concept design approval, to acquisition, management and disposal of assets.
A knowledge and understanding of assets throughout their lifecycle is crucial to providing informed property risk analysis and investment decisions, For Hendry, we’re proud of our zero-claim history, spanning over 38 years as a provider of technical due diligence and building compliance services.
Finally, you should consider that space usage is going to change too, compliance is also taking a new shape, as post-COVID we see a spotlight on health, safety and environmentally sound buildings.
Maddocks Law advises that “you should also determine if the current premises is appropriate for social distancing and new working requirements. What has worked in the past may not be appropriate going forward.”
Deloitte, in a recent study, also pointed out that “during the due diligence process, it will be necessary to consider aspects of the ‘new normal’, which means differentiating which factors do not represent perpetuity from those “came to stay” and will permanently impact the company.”
A good practitioner would ensure that these factors are taken into consideration when providing their assessment and recommendations for a commercially viable acquisition and long-term operation.
As a national consultancy, Hendry has the capability and resources required to service your due diligence needs across Australia for all NCC Compliance, property risk and accessibility & inclusion, as well as strategic asset management projects.
Contact our team to talk about your Property Sell or Acquisition concerns to establish your Technical Due Diligence requirements and make a successful, low-risk property acquisition.
State Manager – Building SurveyingSteve.Long@hendry.com.au
0436 288 339
Hendry has taken out a top spot at this year’s Australian Financial Review “Most Innovative” Awards, placing 6th in the Property, Construction & Transport category and rounding out a hat trick by placing in the list over the last three years consecutively.
We want to say congratulations to our valued clients and property leading peers Investa, Charter Hall and Dexus for well deserved placements in the top 10.
This years’ winning entry recognises Hendry’s suite of digital Emergency Planning and Management solutions, including the recently unveiled Emergency Response and Broadcast app “headsup”.
This latest addition to the company’s suite of digital tools has greatly improves the way we respond to emergencies, decreasing the time taken to respond to an emergency and enact response procedures & communicate with occupants, as well as improve the ability to preserve and protect life safety, along with holding a sound record of the event.
These will augment the way we respond to emergencies in the COVID-19 Normal setting as we continue to ensure we at the forefront of workplace compliance health and safety needs and delivery.
National Manager for Emergency Planning, Sam Rigby, played a key role in the development of the organisation’s suite of digital tools and resources, saying:
“The changing nature of threats and emergencies has been a sort of catalyst to many of us. It’s a wake-up call to evolve the way we handle emerging or existing risks and emergencies and we believe that the first place to start is by developing on the technologies that we’ve already been using in our daily lives to streamline, automate and improve other areas of safety and compliance.”
Hendry’s Emergency Planning team has been recognised throughout industry for leading innovations across a suite of emergency planning, training and response tools. Each service, Hendry says, is specifically designed to support an end-to-end approach to emergency planning and management.
Headsup complements the existing Warden Management System, a fully digital platform that enables hierarchical warden management, and automated training & verification, as well as HendryIQ app, a digital & interactive emergency training platform.
Headsup is the final ‘piece of the puzzle’ in an end-to-end digital emergency scenario. Where Wardens can be assigned, verified, trained and now carry out the emergency response – with real-time analytics at each stage. Doing away with the inefficient and frankly risky paper-based methods of yesteryear.
Our investment in industry leading digital emergency management and training solutions has meant that we possessed a significant competitive advantage from the onset of COVID-19 in our ability to meet the needs of our market as it forcibly moved digitally.
We have also been able to save some of our critical sector clients, such as aged care and hospitals, from the liability gap that existed following the immediate spotlight on health and compliance, as well as an inability for alternate providers to meet their emergency needs digitally.
Interim CEO Bevan Nicholson stated that the achievement was “recognition for the outstanding presentation of technical expertise of our team and the manner in which they translate that expertise into innovative solutions delivery to benefit our clients. For our business, technology is a critical element in supporting and enhancing our service offerings and a key factor in how we tackle emerging challenges and compliance needs such as the changing nature of emergencies, in a smarter way”
For more information on the ways Hendry is supporting businesses with their emergency planning, management and training, visit our services page on our website or contact our National Manager for Emergency Planning, Sam Rigby, at Sam.Rigby@hendry.com.au
Find out more about our full suite of Emergency Planning, Training and Management Solutions HERE
Compulsory Competent Fire Safety Practitioner Registration Now in Force for Annual Fire Safety Statements
The NSW Government has introduced reforms to Fire Safety to strengthen the state’s building regulation and certification systems.
On July 1st, 2020, the Secretary of the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (now integrated under the Department of Customer Service) formally approved the Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS) under section 59 of the Building and Development Certifiers Act 2018, mandating the scheme throughout New South Wales.
This follows 2019 discussions with practitioners and industry to determine criteria for accreditation with the Fire Protection Agency of Australia (FPAA) and in discerning which practitioners are eligible to perform the “regulated work” of conducting assessments of Fire Safety Measures recorded on a building’s Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS).
This regulatory change comes as part of greater building industry reforms, as part of the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020, which passed in early June this year.
Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said “We have now strengthened the regulation of building certifiers, improving their accountability and independence and providing greater protections for consumers.”
What does the new framework mean?
Previously, building owners were required to determine who is a competent Fire Safety Practitioner for the assessment of Essential Fire Safety Measures. Under the new regulations, only individuals who have demonstrated their competence by achieving the appropriate accreditation with the FPAA can undertake assessment of the statutory Fire Safety Measures recorded on a building’s AFSS.
As stated on the NSW Government website:
“Under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (EP&A Regulation), CFSPs must:
What is the process to becoming a Competent Fire Safety Practitioner / Accredited practitioner (Fire Safety)?
The Fire Safety Assessment (FSA) class of FPAS accreditation accredits individuals who undertake assessment of the performance capability of fire safety measures (FSMs) for the purpose of informing an annual or supplementary Fire Safety Statement.
This class of accreditation has been designed to address the requirements for certain fire protection work in New South Wales, to be carried out by a ‘competent fire safety practitioner’ under the state’s 2017 fire safety reforms. Once registered with the FPAA, an individual is deemed an ‘Accredited practitioner (fire safety)’ under the Building and Development Certifiers Act 2018 and can perform “regulated work”.
To gain FSA accreditation, individuals must demonstrate a level of required knowledge, skill and experience to perform the fire safety assessor role, must hold appropriate insurance, and must agree to and abide by the FPAA Australia Code of Professional Conduct.
Where can I find a Certified Practitioner?
Hendry have a team of certified Fire Safety Engineers and practitioners in New South Wales, able to conduct inspections and provide the necessary information regarding compliance and assessment for all Building Fire Safety Measures.
Contact Kingsley Lunt, Manager for Building Surveying/Safety Measures at Kingsley.Lunt@hendry.com.au or call 0419 306 440 to start the discussion and arrange your Fire Safety Inspection.
There will be much to take away from COVID-19, and naturally all eyes will be on minimising the likelihood such an event could happen again. At least, not with such an aggression and inability to detect, monitor and protect as effectively.
While it may not seem one of the first places to look, PropTech is shaping up to be a valuable tool in the front line of defence against contagion. Already known in the property industry for solutions which support the management and optimisation of safety and wellbeing of occupants, solutions are being evaluated and purposed to introduce a new level of health, hygiene and safety control across the built-environment.
Industry appetite to integrate smart-building technologies has steadily risen. Recent studies by KPMG have found that 65 per cent of organisations surveyed are now looking to invest in PropTech in the next 12 months as part of their Asset Management strategy. That figure increases to 86 per cent when including organisations that seek to include PropTech investment in their five-year Asset Management strategies.
Investment in PropTech companies and service providers is likely to see an increase throughout the year and likely into 2021, with already exceeding $2.31 Billion according to Unissu’s March total.
In terms of priorities, PropTech discussions have shifted significantly towards both the health and wellness of tenants and mitigation of future pandemic or contagion events. Industry conversation has previously focussed primarily around the economic value of building automation and enhancing sustainability to meet current regulatory or legislative standards.
However, recent growth in popularity for initiatives such as the WELL rating have swiftly placed health, safety and wellness front of mind recently and is expected to be a primary focus into the future.
The necessity to prioritise general health and wellness in buildings may also become regulated alongside existing life-safety compliance measures such as Emergency Planning or Fire Safety.
Overall, while the impact of COVID-19 will leave a significant impression on society and business for years to come, this may be the catalyst to a wealth of positive decisions around what buildings can do to play their part in preventing the fallout from future outbreaks and prioritise health.
From a PropTech perspective, many improvements which have yet to be implemented will become necessary anyway, with over 72% of building stock being over 20 years old and expected to require retrofitting in the next few years to meet new standards of performance and sustainability.
Considering COVID19 is may significantly alter the way we approach space utilisation and operability, the decision to integrate practical technologies now will be far more effective on cost as we undergo changes to existing environments.
Emphasis on buildings health & the health of occupants.
How strong is the connection between a building’s “Health” and the health of its occupants?
Tenant wellness had until recently been placed alongside notions of sustainability and idealistic concepts of the future of workspaces and what they might look like or how they will perform.
The key here is to distinguish which technologies and practices can be implemented today for a direct benefit to the health and wellbeing of occupants, and of those, which can integrate fluidly and facilitate ROI, and which are more idealistic or conceptual. This distinction has been at the heart of speculation in PropTech investment, and a source of much scepticism in industry as stakeholders feel fatigue over the mounting proposition of aspirational concepts.
In no way does this mean that these aspirational concepts do not have a place in solving the problems of today’s built environment, however to be adopted, property industries notoriously risk adverse decision makers must be willing to first; place emphasis on building & tenant health objectives, and be agile & open for collaboration to potentially develop the technology or concept to fit within their tech stack, as well as be beneficial for the broader stakeholder ecosystem.
Emergent tools such as WELL ratings, introduced and coordinated by the International WELL Buildings Institute, and endorsed by the Green Building Council of Australia, have become a popular global standard for critical elements of building design and performance across health and wellbeing factors such as:
The EY Centre in Sydney, a commercial building and location of the new Mirvac headquarters, was the first project in Australia to be awarded WELL Certification at the Gold level.
Other leading ‘first-mover’ firms continue to transition to this approach as they understand that WELL & Green Star certifications are critical elements as the spotlight on health grows, and are incredibly valuable to a building’s commerciality, particularly as sustainability markets continue to grow rapidly.
Despite market hesitation, there is a great deal which we already understand about the impact that building systems and infrastructure have on our health.
According to Derek Clements-Croome of the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading,
“Over the past 20 years, it has been empirically assessed that most building environments have a direct effect on the occupants’ personal well-being and performance.”
Factors such as CO2 concentration, lighting, temperature and humidity are all linked to employee health and therefore the likelihood of illness and spread of disease.
Clements-Croome also pointed out that “Miller et al. (2009) surveyed over 500 LEED and Energy Star-rated buildings, and proved their hypothesis that healthy buildings reduce the number of sick days, increase productivity and make it easier to recruit and retain staff.”
To control a building’s “health” we need to look at the components which play a role in controlling aspects such as air quality and hygiene.
These in turn depend on the operability, reliability, maintenance and longevity of core systems, which include HVAC and other means of controlling Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
In this example, reduced air quality, measured across elements like CO2 in parts-per-million (ppm) concentrations, can lead to stress and fatigue, impacting the immune system and increasing the likelihood of illness.
We have in recent years developed the knowledge and solutions to curb this risk. Air purification solutions currently in use throughout Scandinavian healthcare facilities, and more recently in Wuhan hospitals, demonstrate the limitations of traditional HVAC methods of filtration against purification.
Realistically, there are several areas in which we can make a significant impact to health and wellness, many of which start at the build phase.
(For example, cost-cutting in areas that prevent water ingress which leads to a compromised building environment, promoting mould, increased humidity and ultimately impacting both occupant health and asset value.)
Creating Immune Buildings – Part of the puzzle
A paper published by Miroslaw J. Skibniewski in 2008 discussed the then emerging concept of “Immune Buildings”, which discussed “design and analysis for protecting traditional buildings against airborne disease transmission, mold contamination, nosocomial infections, and the threat of biological weapon agents.”
Looking at this in a more modern context, we can utilise existing infrastructure, technology and connectivity, to effectively create a live view of a building’s condition across each level of operations, including sanitation and our management of resources. Building owners and managers as a result, should be observing the importance of understanding the baseline condition of building assets.
Making this information accessible through digital models has afforded greater accuracy in lifecycle modelling and the modelling of potential scenarios, lending to greater control over resource allocation and the ability to enact preventative measures proactively. Whilst this is predominantly focussed around the degradation of assets and impact on building performance, we now have a lens to model the impact of systems integration on health & wellness.
Owners and operators will be put in immediate spotlight, tasked with enabling healthier environments due to COVID19, we however stress avoiding a kneejerk approach to procuring and implementing solutions.
We promote the importance of taking a staged approach to smarter asset optimisation or management, and including health as a key metric. This entails:
We understand that some of the best solutions may not be perfect for your systems, they may not seamlessly integrate and may not include some desired functionality. This is where medium and larger firms are required to ‘lead the way’ in partnering to develop solutions that benefit the broader ecosystem.
This is already happening, with firms such as Cushman Wakefield, Colliers, Stockland and Dexus providing Proptech accelerator programs.
Now is the time to work with stakeholders; managers, owners, and occupiers, to set objectives and aim to create returns across the value chain.
Ideally, these objectives should be set in the design and development phase, where developers, builders, architects and investors work collaboratively with stakeholders at who come in at different stages in the building life cycle, and all need to take responsibility for the experience of the end-user.
So, what health and life safety objectives should we look at, and what PropTech solutions exist to meet those needs?
We observe objectives that can be placed in three discernible categories;
Which covers any measure that aids sanitation and upholds elements such as Indoor Air Quality, hygiene and waste for optimal occupant wellness and minimisation of disease transmission or propagation.
More advanced technologies growing in use throughout Europe and America in particular include:
Systems and procedures which can more effectively classify, isolate and provide alert to the possibility of contaminative sources within or external to a location.
The ability to respond effectively and with agility, as incidents that impact health or life safety arise, and have clear records of management to optimise future performance.
This is not by any means an exhaustive list of solutions, however we expect a rapid emergence & pivot of providers to meet the challenges we’re experiencing.
Skibniewski also argued that, by implementing smart building monitoring, maintenance and data collection systems through means such as interconnected devices and the Internet of Things, we might be able to realise the idea of an Immune Building as a consequence of also achieving our aim to create intelligent, green and secure buildings through a “unified architecture”.
This would be a huge benefit in the modern day, as a smart building would consolidate each of these objectives within the one approach. Low energy, low cost, high protection.
Realising value: Creating increased tenant loyalty and value
As we’ve covered in a previous story, a practical and purposeful application of PropTech does more than just increase safety or efficiency. Tenants recognise, and equally receive, the benefits of smart-building design and infrastructure.
Both tenant and buyer appetite will also increase demand for tech enabled or “smart” buildings, a 2018 study by the European Commission on Macroeconomic and Other Benefits of Energy Efficiency reported increases of as much as 11.8 percent in lease value where PropTech is being utilised.
Clements-Croome also said that smart buildings “decrease business costs and energy costs and increase the value of the built asset, as the increasing societal awareness… deepens the demand”
Given the current uncertainty building owners are experiencing with regards to long-term tenancy and tenant loyalty, now is a valuable time to invest in PropTech infrastructure and measures which are going to appeal to the tenant as we each emerge from the impact of COVID-19 and naturally place a greater spotlight on health and life safety.
Features like Indoor Air Quality and WELL ratings are also expected to “diffuse through the rest of the economy.”
How can you integrate building functions digitally for greater control?
PropTech, at its core, enables knowledge and control; being able to integrate operations, performance and tenant experience priorities and areas of risk for more effective decision making and capital allocation that creates value instead of draining resources.
What we don’t want to encourage is to take a kneejerk approach to the adoption of PropTech or similar smart-building technologies. Too many technological innovations are already viewed as being without a practical means of application or ability to demonstrate improvements to performance and ROI.
Here’s how you could be taking a staged approach to smarter asset management;
Most importantly, consider the needs and experiences of the end user. Coming out of COVID19 we will be seeing a change to the commercial use of buildings, and success will be fundamentally tied to those who are collaborative, who look past short-term ROI & who prioritise safer, smarter and more sustainable buildings cities and communities for all.
Start the strategic process now, to make informed decisions when the time comes. Speak to our head of Asset Optimisation, Derek Jones, via email at Derek.Jones@hendry.com.au to discuss a staged approach to smarter asset management across your portfolio.
It is said that you need to treat your house like an office when Working from Home. Believe it or not, this is a requirement by law.
The aggression we’re seeing across the expansion of COVID-19 has exposed a glaring deficiency in the Business Continuity plans of several organisations and left many to hurriedly adapt their response in order to enable Working From Home and to preserve business as usual.
Events of the past few weeks in particular have caused us to reconsider our ability to effectively respond to the unique risks posed by pandemic situations and maintain compliance with our legal and regulatory obligations.
Critically Work, Health & Safety regulations though, have unfortunately been looked over amidst the myriad considerations in Business Continuity.
The concern is that plans may miss or fail to properly address critical legal requirements surrounding work in a home office environment and emergency preparedness and response of staff as they continue to work remotely.
Being considerate of the physical and mental well-being of staff extends to the home, and businesses who have not provided the correct training for their staff are currently exposed.
Who is responsible?
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the business owner or employer to manage health and safety obligations. This is usually done through the assistance of
We’ve also seen the addition of Business Continuity planners of late, with many providers contracted in to assist businesses devise an appropriate strategy.
While most approaches have concerningly stopped at recognising a minimum target through the likes of policies or checklists, our current situation respect to business and staff wellbeing demonstrates the necessity to maintain a higher level of competency and preparedness in keeping with an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment under law.
What staff training is required by law?
Are your staff Working from Home?
Usually, we rely upon the safety systems and infrastructure within the buildings we and our employees inhabit. This extends not only to fire safety systems and mechanical components, but equally covers the role of Wardens and Facility Managers as a key component of building and occupant safety, health and wellbeing.
Working from Home removes a significant amount of these controls and resources. Most homes simply aren’t equipped to the same level and vary wildly in their layout and inherent risks.
Intervention by State and Federal Government has made responses such as the Work from Home model a rapid necessity for businesses irrespective of industry, and so employers are now expected to comply with Work Health and Safety regulations on top of the need to provide digital infrastructure that supports staff to perform business functions remotely.
Understanding the impact of your contingency plan and response
Failing to effectively maintain literacy of and familiarity with Work Health and Safety obligations, emergency management and response procedure inevitably means an increased risk of incident, injury or death.
Whether an employee sustains a physical injury or experiences any manner of psychological duress, mental health issue or similar affliction, the impact to business and to the individual are costly.
As an employer it is clear that you have their safety and wellbeing firmly in your mind as a key priority, not as a means to maintain business operability but more importantly as a genuine and attentive care.
The Australian Productivity Commission’s October 2019 report has detailed the impact of mental health issues affecting employees on the broader economy. Aside from a large claim, or time out of the workforce. Accidents can impact;
“The cost to the Australian economy of mental ill-health and suicide is, conservatively, in the order of $43 to $51 billion per year.”
Safe Work Australia’s own studies have also concluded that “$61.8 billion [is] the cost of work-related injury and disease to the Australian economy.”
Working from Home arrangements, while beneficial in many ways, have equally stressed the need to consider and cater to the psychological welfare of staff as they continue to perform their roles remotely.
COVID-19 is expected to add another layer of pressure to the Australian economy over the next few months, the effect of which will be felt for considerably longer.
Taking considered action to maintain the welfare and wellbeing of employees is a legal requirement under Work Health and Safety laws. To achieve this, you will need to employ an effective means to train them and maintain currency of knowledge remotely.
How to avoid health and safety risks with online training.
This brings us to the necessity of training as a means to avoid liability and the consequence of workplace related claims.
A scattered workforce is not the ideal scenario when administering training or conducting business against safety requirements, regulations and guidelines. From a WHS perspective, each home office environment is considered a workplace, and holds the employer responsible for any injuries or incidents which occur at any of these locations.
This responsibility means that each employer is required by law to provide staff with the resources and knowledge necessary to maintain a safe and compliant workspace during times like these.
Solving this problem is thankfully quite simple today: The surge in online connectivity, availability of networked devices (laptops, phones etc.) and the simplicity and efficiency of online communication have given us an opportunity to make these essential training measures available online.
In response to the shift in working arrangements prompted by COVID-19, we saw a need to develop a remotely accessible way to train and maintain competency across a workforce.
With the help of HendryIQ, our online training portal, we established three simple training modules to help staff and employers;
In these particularly difficult times, we recognised the need to provide a solution that is scalable, affordable and effective.
If you want to provide training and avoid the cost of non-compliance and litigation, head to the Hendry Work from Home page to sign up, or email our Emergency Planning team at HGMarketing@hendry.com.au to get started.
This is your opportunity to minimse risk to your business and staff during COVID-19 with the help of our digital training modules.
The rapid acceleration of COVID-19 as a point of global concern has caused an equally sharp rise in popularity, and necessity, for Work from Home arrangements in order for employers to maintain employee health and safety.
The flow on effect of this mass transition is creating a larger number of temporarily vacant workplaces, offices and worksites irrespective of industry.
What is being overlooked however, is the need to maintain compliance across critical safety measures, risk and the currency of emergency management plans and resources, each in keeping with industry guidelines, regulations and Australian Standards.
Building owners, operators and/or managers can be held liable for avoidance of mandatory regulations, which may result in “prosecution or substantial fines”
What are my compliance requirements during COVID-19?
Irrespective of the current vacancies and disuse of buildings, workplaces or worksites, the Building Code of Australia, Building Regulations and Australian Standards specify in precise terms requirements which must be met. These obligations are enforced by relevant authorities which may include the Victorian Building Authority (VBA), the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) or Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).
Failure to maintain compliance during any period, including during periods of inactivity as we are experiencing now, may attract sever penalties beyond the immediate impact on occupants.
We’ve recently covered the responsibilities of building owners and property managers to uphold the compliance and maintenance of building safety measures.
To recap: inspection, testing and maintenance of safety elements can occur at any of the following intervals, depending on applicable legislation in your state. Australian Standard AS 1851-2012 as an example specifies the following intervals, which are prescribed depending on the element undergoing inspection or testing:
Essential Safety Measures are defined by the VBA as:
“Defined in Part 15 of the Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) and includes items listed in Schedule 8 of the Regulations, such as:
In this case, your concern primarily lies in those safety measures which require compliance testing from between a monthly to yearly basis. Failure to maintain compliance for any duration will be observed where a request is made to review your annual safety measures report, which must be “available on request after 24 hours’ notice has been given.”
In tandem with Safety Measures, currency of emergency management plans must also be equally upheld during any time of inactivity or vacancy across buildings and worksites.
This is to ensure that, when regular business activity resumes, you and your staff are adequately prepared and up to speed with the latest emergency response protocols and can effectively preserve occupant safety.
Given the heightened importance of occupant health and safety at present, it is advised that you seek the provision of COVID-19 and pandemic specific emergency management procedures supported by the advice of a qualified emergency planning consultant.
Australian Standard 3745-2010: Planning for Emergencies in Facilities outlines requirements for the development, management and execution of emergency plans, alongside guidelines as to the duties of responsible personnel such as the Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) and Emergency Control Organisation (ECO).
Facility managers and heads of risk and compliance are reminded that emergency planning requires attention to education and training, which are critical elements in the ability to enact the emergency plan and ensure that, following an emergency, provisions for occupant safety are comprehensively met.
Where it is not possible to deliver training face-to-face, Hendry can provide a range of training solutions at this time. This includes webinar training, which also include additional information on Home Safety (emergency response from home) as we enable our clients to respond effectively to COVID-19 and the operational implications.
To mitigate risks presented by larger groups, Hendry can replace normal sessions with a multiple smaller sessions or tenant visitations, where shorter sessions can be conducted per tenancy or floor of a facility.
What if my building or business shuts down?
The clarification of Regulation 226 in the Building Regulations 2018 “places an obligation on a non-occupying owner of a building or place – irrespective of the age of the building or place – to maintain the Safety Measures so they can fulfil their purpose. This obligation continues even if the building is vacant.”
It has been concerning to observe the temptation to reduce costs in the short term by postponing safety measures inspections and relevant emergency management and planning obligations during a period of vacancy.
This will inevitably pose a greater risk to occupants at such a time that business can resume as usual, as critical infrastructure has not been maintained in accordance with Australian Standards and applicable industry guidelines during this time and may present avoidable risks to safety.
There are however a number of advantages in conducting safety measures inspections and testing at this time. Primarily, managing these obligations now will avoid the usual disruption to business where staff members or occupants would otherwise be present. This also avoids causing any disruption or shutdown of critical components during testing, which would otherwise have caused temporary disruption.
As compliance obligations must continually be upheld, we recommend that clients contact us to bring forward their testing schedule and maximise compliance outcomes.
Who can I discuss my requirements with? Can I delay any of my obligations?
To answer the last question first; your obligations as set out in the relevant regulations cannot be excused at any time.
The VBA state that “Non-compliance may result in an infringement notice being issued by Council or the Fire Authority, along with a fine. It may also result in prosecution and more substantial fines. More importantly, non-compliance could place building occupants at risk, as well as passers-by and the occupants of adjoining buildings.”
It is essential at this time that you consult with a registered practitioner for both Safety Measures compliance and inspection schedules and to discuss your Emergency Planning requirements to ensure that both obligations can be comfortably met.
In the current climate, it is particularly important that emergency management and response training should account for the specificity of pandemic events such as COVID-19.
Hendry recommends that you contact the following members of our team, who have assisted clients in managing their compliance obligations across emergency planning, safety measures, Work Health and Safety.
We additionally encourage our networks to review their plans and seek consultation to reduce risk and liability. Overall, it is a direct responsibility to maintain building and life safety as a means to avoid potential loss and disruption.
When it comes to compliance, it should be business as usual.
National Operations Manager – Safety Measures
National Manager – Emergency Planning
How can I prevent an unnecessary risk of COVID-19 exposure on site?
We’ve provided a breakdown of our risk management protocols and recommendations on our website. Follow the link to read the full document.
Consider the following:
Each of these questions feeds back into the web of responsibilities Facility Managers and Building Owners have in maintaining their risk profile and mitigating factors which contribute to risk and emergency.
Given the heightened concern over building safety, particularly in relation to building fires, containment and occupant safety in recent times, there are a range of concerns for Building Owners and Facility Managers to ensure that their responsibilities are swiftly met and provide an encompassing view of a building’s risk profile, maintenance of safety features and an assurance of reliable and competent service delivery by the contractors which provide testing, inspection and certification.
In this breakdown, we’ll walk through these key responsibilities and allow you to more effectively fulfil your obligations to building safety. These responsibilities, specified by industry regulations and law, ultimately involve the ability to guarantee that all safety measures and features throughout your buildings can reliably fulfill their intended purpose when required, maximising life safety for your occupants.
Much of the preventative response is in the regular inspection, testing and certification of safety features and equipment throughout the site, including:
And other measures depending on the site. Inspection and testing are crucial processes designed to cover:
Inspection, testing and maintenance of safety elements can occur at any of the following intervals, depending on applicable legislation in your state. Australian Standard AS 1851-2012 specifies the following intervals, which are prescribed depending on the element undergoing inspection or testing:
Requirements may differ in to a certain degree between states. In this case, we recommend getting in touch with a registered safety measures practitioner, fire safety technician or building assessor to understand your obligations and devise an optimal way to manage your obligations under law.
If you require testing of your building or site’s safety measures, you can contact our Property Risk team through the button below to discuss your requirements:
Guaranteeing competency and quality
Contractors, under the third category, are an important resource to coordinate. More so, it is in your best interest to find a provider that can prove their competency and guarantee the reliability of their work and assessment.
This may not appear so simple, but there are guidelines, like the following from the Victorian Building Authority, that should give you a framework to satisfy these concerns.
They state at a “competent person” is an individual “who has acquired – through training, qualification or experience (or a combination of them) – the knowledge and skills enabling the person to perform the task correctly.”
Not all qualifications are the same however, so it is also advised that “consideration must be given to their qualifications, the training they have received relevant to the task at hand, and their previous experience in doing similar tasks.”
A membership with and accreditation by the Fire Protection Association of Australia is another strong indicator of competency and a reliable track record.
Effectively coordinate people and resources
When we consider the human aspect, we can see that risk management and response occurs across three key participant groups, two of which are dependent on the actions of Building Owners and Facility Management:
It is the responsibility of Building Owners and Managers to ensure that all procedure and applicable legislation is adhered to, coordinating the following interrelated groups to aid in meeting these responsibilities.
Technicians: Contractors or service providers that test, maintain and report on the integrity of safety elements according to building regulations or legislative criteria, including the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Here, it is essential to guarantee that your supplier, as stated above, can meet a demonstrable standard of competency and quality.
Occupiers: Tenants and other groups who utilise or frequent the building, from businesses to janitorial staff. In an emergency, you’ll be expected to coordinate with them according to emergency management plans. Training is also a major factor here, as life safety depends on emergency preparedness and ability to direct occupants.
No matter the circumstance, it is essential to develop and maintain robust safety systems that align to leading industry practice. Speaking for Hendry, our registered practitioners are capable of conducting the range of necessary inspections, testing and verification to guarantee reliable and efficient safety features for the long-term.
Our Property Risk team can service the full range of Safety Measures, Emergency Planning and Property Risk Assessment responsibilities to ensure a holistic view to satisfy the necessary regulatory requirements. You can get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 975 371 to discuss a comprehensive testing, certification and inspection plan for your assets.
Following the past few years of investigation and assessment into non-compliant and potentially flammable cladding products in our buildings, most states are now beginning the process of addressing buildings deemed “unsafe” through their respective remediation programs.
State Governments continue to discuss a national rectification and funding program with government, however Victoria has become the first to enact a funding scheme to allow rectification works to proceed.
Introducing the Levy and its role in rectification
Following discussions in November and December of 2019, the Victorian State Government has this month enacted a proposed Cladding Rectification Levy in a bid to raise funds to assist in the rectification of 1400 affected buildings across the state.
The Levy was established following its proposal in 2019 to generate an additional $300 million over five years to support the Victorian Government’s Cladding Rectification Scheme, complementing the $600 million which will be provided by the State Government.
Provisions for the levy were included in “amendments to the Building Act 1993 in the Building Amendment (Cladding Rectification) Act 2019.”
Initial plans by the State Government intended that the levy would enter into effect on July 1st, however discussions late last year saw the commencement date brought forward by six months, applying to new building permits as of January 1st this year.
Understanding the new Levy
The current scope of the levy applies to:
The levy “does not apply to stand-alone houses or other class 1 buildings.”
To assist in understanding the costs associated with the new levy, the VBA have also established an online Building Permit Levy Calculator to provide a more detailed estimate of levies and costs calculated on “the entire cost of works”, spanning contributions to
for the nominated permit.
The VBA has instructed that Building Surveyors will use the Building Activity Management System (BAMS) to calculate the total building permit levy “payable from 1 January 2020.”
Where Hendry can assist
Whether you are a building owner, manager or occupant, it is essential to partner with a registered practitioner if your building has been identified as a risk to navigate rectification and risk management efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.
The same holds true for developers and property owners whose projects are ongoing or have not yet commenced. In their case, a building practitioner is an important resource to manage your obligations under this new levy and coordinate the issuance of building permits.
Our team of Building Surveyors and BCA Consultants have been assisting clients, government and industry authorities in identifying and managing the risks associated with non-compliant cladding and building products over the past few years.
If you need to discuss matters concerning cladding or the new levy in relation to your buildings or projects, contact our Building Surveying team at email@example.com, or use the link below to arrange a meeting.
Heading into 2020, the Victorian State Government has detailed funding guidelines for the rectification of cladding on buildings deemed to require remediation works.
The website, under Cladding Safety Victoria, specifies conditions surrounding who is able to apply for funding through the program, including:
Subject to the criteria as listed on the CSV website, “Funding for eligible buildings may be provided to owners corporations to design and implement cladding rectification solutions which comply with the relevant Victorian building regulations and meet the VBA’s Cladding Guidelines for Building Surveyors.”
2019 has been a year of rising concern against relatively steady but modest progress, as Government and Industry seek to deal with the issues surrounding the use of non-conforming and unsafe building materials, particularly combustible Aluminium Composite Panels (ACPs)
Concerns this year have also included the rising cost and availability of the prescribed level of Professional Indemnity Insurance, suitability of guidelines for accountability and the lack of a consistent national approach as State Government’s take responsibility to rectify cladding risks within their respective jurisdictions.
Concerns are worsened by the downward pressure placed on builders, suppliers and consumers, as rising insurance premiums in a shrinking market have left “nearly 60 per cent of building surveyors” increasing fees to cover insurance costs, which for some have risen by “800 per cent in a single year” according to the ABC.
While state-based task forces and committees have been established to review the state of legislative and regulatory frameworks, state Governments have made repeated calls to the Federal Government to coordinate a nationwide approach to the issue, with regards to rectification, remuneration and legislation.
We’ve drawn from our team of experts and public resources to lay out what has happened across industry and Government in 2019, and what we might expect for 2020 across the cladding issue and its impact on the built-form.
Scroll below to view a summary of developments for your state in 2019 and expectations for the new year or review a summary of the national approach at the bottom of this article.
| Victoria & Tasmania
Since the establishment of a State-wide Cladding Audit in November of 2017, The Victorian Building Authority (VBA), in cooperation with the Victorian State Government, have conducted inspections across over 2,500 buildings, delivering over 1,300 building assessments in the same period.
This undertaking has also identified, as documented across local and national media, industry publications and governing bodies, “multiple failures – in buildings, in regulation and in industry.”
Since that time, several amendments, updates and revisions have been made across state legislation (notably through the National Construction Code and ministerial orders), which aim to clarify conditions surrounding acceptable use of cladding, performance solutions, avenues to rectification and liability.
To date, more than 400 buildings of the 2500 plus inspected have been categorised as “high risk”, an additional 72 further classified as “extreme risk”.
The Andrews Government has also committed to a $600m cladding rectification fund in a bid to alleviate the impact of rectification works and corrective measures on owners and occupants.
Premier Daniel Andrews commented on the matter earlier this year, stating “These apartment owners find themselves in this situation through no fault of their own. They shouldn’t have to deal with the cost and stress that court action can mean – so we’re pursuing wrongdoers on their behalf.”
This contribution will coincide with planned “changes to the building permit levy”, aiming “to raise the other $300 million over the next five years.”
This levy will apply to new permits for buildings “valued at more than $800,000, excluding single dwellings, developments in regional Victoria and schools and hospitals. Other projects such as social housing may also be exempt.”
Victoria is currently the only state to have established a governing body, Cladding Safety Victoria, which intends to support “owners and owners corporations to help them rectify non-compliant cladding by providing support, guidance and connections to appropriately registered and qualified practitioners.”
Where eligible, Cladding Safety Victoria will “provide funding for:
As of December 13th, Victorian Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, has renewed calls for Federal and Commonwealth support on the issue, requesting a nationwide ban on all Aluminium Composite Panels and to “provide a safety net for the insurance market so practitioners can obtain the right insurance and consumers are protected.”
The proposed safety net would include a national fund “to provide rectification for existing combustible cladding removal”, extending to “a national reinsurance scheme to provide coverage for new construction.”
Consistent with other states, the latest public statement from the Minister for Planning also requests the Federal Government “leads a national professional standards scheme for industry.”
The Minister has simultaneously moved to ban the non-compliant products in Victoria as an immediate measure, pending any response concerning a national approach. “We need to take these dangerous products out of the market across the country to provide clarity for industry and confidence for consumers – this is a national problem and it needs a national solution.” He said.
Tasmania has mirrored concerns across Victoria, having identified over forty buildings across the state which contain, or are believed to contain, unsafe cladding, including “University of Tasmania Accommodation, the new Parliament Square Building, Hospitals and a number of Schools.”
Following the completion of a state-wide audit of Aluminium Composite Panels, the Tasmanian State Government released their findings in January of 2018. The report stated that of the buildings identified, “42 buildings considered in the audit were found not to have any additional risk to fire safety.” The only building listed as requiring rectification works was the Launceston General Hospital, according to the State Premier’s website.
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has emphasised their ongoing commitment to pursuing practitioners involved with buildings found to have made use of combustible cladding.
“Action to hold this relatively small group of the industry to account for their involvement has commenced and will continue vigorously in 2020, while architects will be referred to the Architects Registration Board for its attention.”
They anticipate that “such investigations and enforcement activity will increase in the coming year.”
Ongoing industry training and new partnerships are expected to play a significant role in “raising the standard of conduct and professionalism across the industry… [and] go some way towards directly addressing systemic shortcomings in pockets of the industry to ensure a fit-for-purpose built environment.”
Concerning the State Government’s continued commitment, the Victorian Premier’s office stated earlier this year that “The government will also review the state’s Building Act to identify what legislative change is needed to strengthen the system and better protect consumers.”
The ability for practitioners to maintain the required level of Professional Indemnity Insurance has also been a continued concern for most of the industry, extending to retiring practitioners who are encountering difficulties in obtaining runoff insurance without exemptions or special conditions.
The VBA has issued a statement supporting a national approach to resolving this issue, in particular identifying key problem areas across “increased premiums and excesses”, special conditions and exclusions in renewed policies and the decreasing availability of insurance providers.
Victoria’s building and construction industry have appealed to the State Government to “suspend prosecuting builders… in a bid to encourage voluntary reporting of affected properties.”
It is uncertain whether this appeal will be considered, however the movement has attracted the attention of the Master Builders Association, who have stated that builders are more likely to come forward with the desire “to contribute to the rectification without fear of reprisal.”
As of December 11th, the Andrews Government has commissioned an Expert Panel to review and address the Victorian Building System.
The six-member panel will convene next year, chaired by Victorian Better Regulation and Red Tape Commissioner Anna Cronin and featuring:
The initial responsibility of the panel will be to “establish overarching principles to guide the building system review and identify key themes to be investigated and addressed throughout the reform process.”
This panel will also address the recommendations of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce’s July 2019 Report and the Building Confident report by Professor Peter Shergold AC and Ms Bronwyn Weir.”
| New South Wales & ACT
2019 saw a continuation of the New South Wales Government’s cladding identification and rectification plans, following its establishment in July 2017 under Minister for Better Regulation, the Hon. Matt Kean MP.
The State commissioned Shergold Weir report “Building Confidence” was commissioned to “follow compliance issues in the construction industry at state, national and international levels.”
In accordance with the report’s findings, the state Government has proposed the following actions:
The state became one of the earliest to enact a ban on Aluminium Composite Panels, implementing the policy in August this year and defining criteria for non-compliance across relevant building classes.
In line with actions of the Queensland Government, New South Wales mandated the registration of potentially affected buildings by February 22nd this year, which:
Similar to Victoria and Queensland, the state-wide cladding taskforce is nearing completion of the assessment of over 1900 buildings across the state. To date, recent estimates state that “over 500 buildings have been identified as ‘high-risk’”, however the state government is yet to commit to any funding plan that would assist with remedial works.
Where a building is deemed to pose an immediate risk, the NSW taskforce will instruct the relevant local Council to issue a Fire Safety Order which “where necessary, requires remedial work to be undertaken at the cost of the building owner.”
This has been cause for debate as the NSW State Government has not yet announced or committed to any funding initiative to assist with remediation.
Following the completion of the initial state-wide cladding audit, new residential, assembly and healthcare buildings of two or more storeys are required to register with the New South Wales Cladding Portal according to the same requirements.
Although information of the cladding register has not yet been made public, it has been highlighted that clause 186U “Register of buildings that have external combustible cladding”, of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Identification of Buildings With Combustible Cladding) Regulation 2018, makes provisions for the Planning Secretary to do so.
It is not yet clear as to whether this will alleviate concerns regarding Professional Indemnity Insurance, as hesitation across several insurance providers have been seen to be affecting progress on rectification works.
At present, the New South Wales Government, in line with other states, has implemented a temporary injunction allowing practitioners, whose policies contain cladding related exclusions or special conditions, to continue to practice while a long-term resolution is sought. The current measures only allow for continuation of practice under these Insurance Policies until June 30, 2021.
This has raised concerns within the building sector, as questions have been raised with regards to the establishment of liability in future should another cladding related incident occur, amidst other concerns over rising premiums and difficulties in obtaining a suitable policy.
Issues such as these are expected to form key concerns in future discussions over regulation and legislature between Government and leading industry bodies.
Our understanding will become more clear with the completion of a Parliamentary Report into building regulations in New South Wales, which is expected by February 14th, 2020.
According to a report by the ABC, NSW Parliament is also “currently debating a bill to create a new registration system for the industry, and to make it easier for owners to pursue damages” amid discussions to establish a separate building commission and dedicated building minister to “improve standards” in the state.
Queensland’s state-wide Audit Taskforce is well underway in their efforts to inspect and assess buildings and enact remediation works following the registration of over 18,000 buildings by the registration deadline of October 31st, per the building registration scheme which commenced on October 1st of 2018.
Further to this, the state Government has enacted the “Building Fire Safety (Combustible Cladding Rectification Work) Amendment Regulation 2019” as an amendment to the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008.
This latest piece of legislation is designed to provide clarification around responsibilities for owners to “complete an online checklist to identify which buildings are affected by combustible cladding”, accompanied by the introduction of “a fee for QFES advice on combustible cladding rectification work.”
This measure also supports the implementation of the state-wide registration system “requiring private building owners to record the fire safety of their buildings.”
The document was completed following consultation with:
All building owners were required to register buildings and complete stage one of the Combustible Cladding Checklist by March 29th. Buildings which must be registered are:
The timeline for additional requirements is as follows:
Thus far, combustible cladding has been identified across more than 230 buildings across the state, including at least five state owned buildings.
It was also noted within this document that the newly introduced schedule of fees “may be serving as a disincentive to the rectification of combustible cladding.”
The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) has also sought to ban the use and importation of combustible cladding, enacting the ban on October 23rd, preventing the use of “expanded polystyrene products used in any external wall insulation and finish (rendered) system on class 2 – 9 buildings of type A or B construction.”
Mick de Brenni, Queensland Minister for Public Works, has maintained the Government’s position regarding funding for rectification works as being the responsibility of the building owner, running counter to the Victorian Government’s announcement of their $600 Million package to combat the issue.
The enactment of preventative measures and policies to stem the impact of non-compliant cladding and unsafe building materials has, according to Queensland Building Minister Mick de Brenni, improved the medium to long-term impact on the industry and consumer confidence, but will take time to rectify deeper issues across existing buildings.
“We say in respect of new buildings we can see a short-term achievement of very effective compliance, and in terms of buildings that already exist the identification and rectification of latent defects will take some years” he said.
It is expected that the Queensland Government “will also promote the idea of a national professional development scheme for industry professionals along the lines of the state’s own existing program.”
All building owners who have registered through the Safer Buildings portal and completed both the necessary checklist and enlistment of a Fire Engineer are expected to have completed the third and final stage of the combustible cladding checklist, building fire safety assessment and Fire Engineer statement by the 3rd of May 2021.
If the cladding is deemed “non-conforming” by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC), owners will be required, within 60 days of receiving the fire safety risk assessment, to:
With regards to a return to more accessible and affordable Indemnity Insurance, the State Government argues that the current trend “would also reverse once surveyors were part of a nationally consistent scheme that raised standards.”
“What will drive down insurance costs over time is the realisation of higher standards of conduct that will come with a professional standards scheme, where certifiers can hold themselves to account,” Mr De Brenni said.
| South Australia
Initiated under the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) in 2017, the South Australian Government is currently in the third phase of their building audit and rectification program.
Stages one and two of the program sought to identify buildings which met necessary criteria for further investigation and compile findings across these sites. Following the completion of these respective stages, the State Government with the assistance of local councils are in the process of notifying building owners and occupants who are affected.
At this stage, building owners will proceed according to the following options:
Over 17,000 public buildings were reviewed in the initial phase of the audit, through which 126 were identified to undertake further investigation.
Of these buildings selected for further review, 52 were found to “incorporate some ACP external cladding and underwent a full Life Safety Risk Analysis.”
The State Government further commented that “Through this process, two (2) buildings were assessed as High risk. The remainder (50) were assessed as either Moderate (39) or Low (11) risk. No public-owned buildings were found to warrant a higher risk classification, e.g. High-Extreme or Extreme.”
With regards to Private Buildings, 172 were identified for review. Of these, 142 buildings in 19 council districts were confirmed to contain “some ACP external cladding and underwent a full Life Safety Risk Analysis.”
Following the conclusion of cladding investigations, the South Australian State Government is now in the process of distributing “Life Safety risk analysis results and recommendations” to the appropriate building owners. It is mandated that they respond “to council or DPTI acknowledging the risk and potential actions proportionate to the level of risk.”
Finally, relevant Council Building Fire Safety Committees are required to “address and manage risks with private building owners.”
At present, building owners under the direction of the DPTI and Fire Safety Authorities, must undertake remediation works in the form of:
The DPTI “will monitor building owners’ responses to the Audit findings and recommendations made in the Interim Report” and “will continue to work collaboratively with owners of both public and private-owned buildings to ensure that appropriate recommended remedial or other actions are taken, relevant to a building’s SALSA risk rating that will reduce that risk to an acceptable level (i.e. Low to Moderate).”
Responsibility to ensure correct adherence to the rectification guidelines will be divided between Councils for privately owned buildings and relevant Government agencies for all public buildings identified in the Audit Interim Report.
| Western Australia
Consistent with the response of State Government counterparts, the Western Australian Government expanded on the scope of their initial review of Aluminium Composite Panels (ACPs) into a state-wide cladding audit encompassing “all high-risk, high-rise buildings with cladding attached.”
The Western Australian Cladding audit involves buildings 3 storeys or higher of class 2, 3, 4 & 9 construction with cladding applied after 2000.
Managed by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) The current status of the project sollout is in phase two, stage 3 and 4 – determining which buildings require remedial works and issuing the appropriate building order, with the ability to “order that the cladding be remediated via the issue of a building order.”
DMIRS has also issued direction notices to 115 building surveying contractors concerning in progress building works. “The direction notices requested that the Building Commissioner be provided with information relating to any Certificates of Design Compliance issued by their offices from July 2017 that involved high risk buildings with cladding.”
To aid the program, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) simultaneously issued a guide in January, instructing building owners affected by combustible cladding to “reduce the fire risk posed from existing non-compliant external cladding installed on their building, as the appropriate approach to the issue is resolved.”
This document coincides with Guideline GL-17, released on February 27, detailing the following conditions surrounding unsafe cladding:
The Building Minister’s Forum (BMF) has also provided regular communications regarding key decisions addressing safety issues associated with “non-conforming and non-complying building products,” in cooperation with the Western Australian Attorney General; Minister for Commerce John Quigley MLA LLB, JP.
As of September 19th, “remediation works had commenced on 46 (of the 52) buildings identified in during the audit process”, and the “drafting of a final cladding audit report has been commenced.”
Following the publication of a final report, expectations are that the Western Australian Government may provide further recommendations for national regulatory guidelines per the NCC, and hand findings to Federal Government to assist in the development of a national approach to managing the issue.
Private buildings assessed as moderate or high risk will be referred to the relevant local government permit authority which has the power under the Building Act to order the building owner to engage an expert to conduct a survey and provide a report in relation to the cladding. The local government permit authority can also order that the cladding be remediated via the issue of a building order. Alternatively, some building owners may opt to remediate cladding using the building permit pathway under the Building Act.
DMIRS will continue to monitor the outcome of local government permit authority activities to ensure no building poses an unacceptable risk of fire spread due to combustible cladding. DMIRS will include updates on its fortnightly reports in relation to actions taken by local government permit authorities in response to assessments referred to them by DMIRS.
DMIRS will also continue to publish updates about the status of public buildings involved in the audit.
Additionally, DMIRS are seeking to make a number of amendments to state building legislation, based on the recommendations of the Shergold Weir ‘Building Confidence’ report; DMIRS are currently seeking industry stakeholder feedback and input on a number of proposed reforms to the building approval and assessment process in Western Australia.
| Northern Territory
The current position of the Northern Territory Government, as stated on their website, reads
“Building work in the Northern Territory must conform and comply with the National Construction Code, relevant technical standards and laws to make our buildings safe. Everyone is responsible for making sure the right products are used and applied correctly including designers, engineers, builders, assessors, buyers, sellers, manufacturers, importers and others.”
A recent statement to the ABC stated that “The Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure and Planning declined to comment on specific buildings.
The response from the Northern Territory Government commented “The NT continues to liaise with ‘the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions on its response to the combustible cladding issue, and on strategies to reduce the potential risks from non-conforming building products and materials.’”
It is believed that, following the establishment of a national approach and supporting guidelines for auditing and identification, updates to relevant legislation, rectification and accountability, the Northern Territory will potentially seek to adopt practices under a national program as part of the region’s approach to rectification of unsafe cladding.
The National Approach
2019 in review
Discussion on the matter appears, on the whole, to be moving steadily towards a consistent understanding of the issue from a legislative point of view. However, areas of liability and accountability, among others, remain hotly debated issues throughout the building sector, Government and the general public, quickly becoming a point of frustration and uncertainty for many.
Federal Government continues to debate the long-term implications of non-compliant cladding and associated building materials, against rising pressure from State Governments, industry practitioners and regulatory bodies. Commentary has described the Federal Government as “maintaining the position that building regulation is an issue that falls squarely within the remit of individual State Governments across Australia.”
Despite the positions of State and Federal Governments, Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews has indicated the possibility of funding a national taskforce to “achieve a common outcome”, following an initial agreement between State and Federal Governments in July to pursue a “nationally consistent approach to recommendations of the [Building Confidence] report.”
However, there is has been no stipulation that any manner of relief funding will be established in line with Victoria’s $600 million assistance package.
Looking towards 2020
In the immediate-term, we expect continued action from all levels of government in cooperation with regulatory bodies and with input from high profile and leading practitioners. This will follow the establishment of cladding taskforces and legislation governing identification and rectification works and the prohibition of non-compliant materials.
This is likely to be a greater push for a consistent and informed approach to elements of fire safety, building design, maintenance and assessment, described by some as “lax and ambiguous building standards” which have also been identified throughout the cladding issue.
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is currently taking recommendations and comments from practitioners on proposed technical updates to the 2022 edition of the National Construction Code (NCC). The current cut-off for responses is August 2020 and is likely to receive input from across the industry on amendment or clarification of regulations with regards to cladding.
Coinciding with the release of the 2019 edition of the NCC, a new Non-Mandatory Fire Safety Method was announced which will be made mandatory as of May 1st, 2020.
This is particularly important given that developments across the building sector have highlighted the gaps in accountability, amid calls for more encompassing legislation to prevent the fallout from improper construction. Proposed solutions to this matter have been a continual source of disagreement between industry and Government, who have contested one another with regards to the rectification process and, perhaps more immediately, who will be responsible for covering the cost.
Concerning the importation of now banned materials, Master Builders Victoria has recently identified to Federal Government the fact that cladding “has been brought into Australia with stickers falsely declaring it to be resistant to fire”, recommending to “overhaul the current auditing and testing system for imported products” as documented in The Age.
As an aside, a recent landmark ruling by the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal has deemed another external cladding product, known as “Biowood”, to be “an undue risk of fire spread” from “compartment to compartment via the exterior of the building” in certain conditions, and is therefore “not fit for purpose.” The Tribunal concluded that the use of BioWood as an attachment to the external walls of a building is “a major defect in breach of the statutory warranties.”
It remains to be seen how this will relate to the ongoing issues concerning Aluminium Composite Panels, however it is predicted to increase the number of buildings nationally earmarked as unsafe due to the use of non-compliant materials.
Managing safety and compliance obligations in the wake of the recent cladding fallout has become a considerable point of difficulty and expense for many building owners.
Get in touch with Hendry’s expert team of advisors to devise a solution that will optimise compliance, avoid unnecessary risk or exposure to cladding and maintain the safety of your assets.
An integrated approach to risk and compliance is the optimal solution to reducing the risk profile across your asset portfolio and enabling clearer decision making to enhance the safety of occupants and maximise the longevity of asset infrastructure.
Choosing a provider that can deliver a holistic understanding of overall risk is paramount in streamlining key attributes to ensure necessary frameworks, assessment, response, reporting and monitoring are easier to manage. I’ll walk you through how you can achieve this.
It is a common misconception across building owners and operators that diversifying the range of providers servicing your risk and compliance obligations will reduce overall liability and risk for your portfolio.
In practice however, we’ve observed that the more providers are involved in the process, the narrower the focus becomes; concentrating on a singular facet of overall property risk such as fire safety limits the ability to keep a holistic view of risk for the entirety of your assets.
Failing to do so also invites a range of shortfalls in your ability to enhance life and building safety, coordinate data and proactively manage your risk and compliance objectives.
It’s especially important now to utilise a single provider to cover each of your responsibilities from the fundamental regulatory or legislative frameworks and routine inspections over to the human aspects of risk and safety.
Here, I want to detail the factors that you should be aware of and how an integrated approach will close the gaps in your current strategy.
First, we can effectively define Property Risk across three key considerations, many of which directly affect or interrelate with one another:
Understanding each of these tiers within risk is part of the way we have countered this issue, providing integrated risk services and shared expertise across three core practices:
The overall aim of an integrated approach to risk in the built-form is to unify the information between these layers to deliver control and clearly establish oversight of risk management and mitigation.
It is necessary to engage a supplier that allows you to utilise the wealth of new and emerging technologies to perform multiple services at once within a digital inspection, enhancing your capabilities in obtaining and utilising data to better inform key decisions in real-time.
This presents the added benefit of reducing requirements for procurement and establishes an easier way to manage contractors and on-site personnel.
To do this, we gather this wealth of information and showcase it through our online portfolio management platform Infinity; a central data management, reporting and integration platform that allows you to understand risk across the entire asset portfolio as a single source of truth.
Storing your data from all workflows in the one location, making information easily accessible and shifting users away from reactive work. The digitised approach directly supports this by capturing more information within a reduced timeframe.
Hendry Infinity: Your one stop platform for managing
Risk and Compliance across the entire asset portfolio.
Our Risk Assessment and Mitigation framework uses this data to provide a complete Risk Profile rating across assets. Existing condition and compliance of the facility is assessed and audited against a number of risk or compliance categories and data captured through digital inspections to directly suit your portfolio requirements.
This insight forms the basis of your priorities across each site to allow the resolution of issues, planned maintenance & critical works.
You can, for example, look across a building and identify that there are not enough wardens assigned, multiple defects have not been rectified or that WHS and environmental compliance criteria have not been met.
Without the ability to have this information in the one place, you cannot correlate data and make effective decisions for the whole of a building or the greater portfolio.
More to the point, having this oversight will allow you to strategically plan and manage the safety of each individual occupant and maintain the longevity of your risk preparedness and the infrastructure that supports this.
To sum up; approaching risk and compliance via an integrated approach is a far more efficient and cost-effective process that enhances life-safety at all levels. It’s about resolving disconnected practices and effectively centralising their outcomes to reduce your risk profile via a reliable data-driven view.
At Hendry we have implemented a future focussed approach, going beyond just quality and expertise to develop and integrate the latest in tech throughout immersive solutions spanning immersive technologies over to our new app “headsup”, which you’ll hear more about soon.
You can contact our leading Risk and Compliance team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 875 371 to discuss the needs of your portfolio and implement a reliable and effective approach.