Submission calls for sensible reforms to commercial building approvals

Property Council WA has made a submission to Building and Energy responding to proposed reforms emerging from the Building Confidence Report into building safety and quality.

The reforms to the building approval process for class 2-9 buildings, contained in a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement, were put out for public comment earlier this year with the deadline for submissions extended to 30 June to accommodate industry responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. A strong focus of the submission is to ensure changes do not duplicate or add to existing regulations where improvements to building quality are not realised.

The CRIS detailed 28 proposals aimed at improving fire safety, building documentation and building quality through the building approval process. Following strong feedback from members in the development and building surveying space, the Property Council pushed back strongly on a proposal that would provide the Department of Fire and Emergency Services with unlimited powers and timeframes to require a response from builders to DFES advice at any stage of construction. Removing the existing 15 working day deadline for feedback that DFES struggles to meet would cause avoidable and unnecessary delays to projects being completed.

Another proposal strongly opposed by members included limiting the ability for developers and builders to terminate contracts with building surveyors mid-construction. The rationale given by the CRIS paper was to stop developers from allegedly pressuring building surveyors to sign off on sub-standard or non-compliant work. This was despite the lack of identification of this issue occurring in Western Australia and the unreasonable additional burden such a requirement would bring.

Property Council WA supported the proposal for a building surveyor’s Code of Conduct, which would alleviate concerns that developers and builders may influence surveyors to approve non-compliant work.

Other additional regulations the proposals would have on industry include a new third party review system for projects deemed high-risk in nature, requirements for inspections at certain stages of construction prior to construction proceeding to the next stage, more onerous documentation standards and unworkable approval requirements for variations to designs mid-construction.

Property Council WA provided qualified support for the some of the mooted measures. These included stronger compliance for building materials where fire safety is a consideration, private certification for inspections if those proposals were adopted in full and a need for consistent approach across permit authorities.

You can view our submission to Building and Energy below.