The proliferation of building defects and issues that owners and owners’ corporations had to deal with culminated in the Shergold Weir Building Confidence Report in 2018, and the subsequent response from the NSW legislation led to the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020. With the introduction of a statutory duty of care, the Design and Building Practitioners Act and Regulation, amongst its other objectives, aims to ensure that suitably qualified designers were signing off on the job. Prominent public examples such as the structural failure of the Opal Tower, Sydney Olympic Park in December 2018 and the Mascot Tower, Mascot in June 2019, have further eroded public confidence and led to the appointment of the Building Commissioner at the end of 2019 and equipping him with a set of legislative tools to bring the Building Industry to heed.
In July 2021, the NSW Government introduced the Design and Building Practitioners (DBP) Regulation (1) with the aim of regulating the design of Class 2 (residential) constructions. The Regulation follows the Design and Building Practitioner Act 2020 (2), which outlines the process to follow during design documentation.
Construction Process in NSW
Previously, staged construction was permitted with the Certifying Authority issuing numerous Construction Certificates (CC) over the construction timeframe of Class 2 buildings. From a fire safety perspective, this allowed for construction to continue on site without significant delays in reporting.
From July 2021, with both the Design and Building Practitioner Act 2020 and Building Practitioners (DBP) Regulation 2021, staged Construction Certificates (CC) were being phased out. This meant that the Certifying Authority would generally issue a CC for the entire works of the building that would be subject to various regulated designs, one of which being the Fire Engineering Report. This new construction NSW process has been summarised in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1 – Construction process for Class 2 (residential) buildings in NSW
What is Building Work?
The regulation aims to regularise and formalise all amendments to construction documentation and building works. The DBP Act details that building work may be summarised as shown in Figure 2:
Figure 2 – Building work definition from Section 4 as nominated by DBP Act (2)
Not Considered to be Building Work
With reference to Section 13 of the DBP Regulation the following items are excluded from building work, and thus do not need to form part of a regulated design that is explained further in the subsequent section.
- Works carried out as an exempt development such as decks, carports, garden sheds, fences or other low impact developments as nominated by the NSW Government Planning provisions.
- Works carried out in compliance with an order issued by Council.
- Works related to the repair, renovation or protective treatment of fire safety systems for the purposes of maintaining a component of the fire safety system.
A comprehensive list of the items that are considered to be excluded from building works is provided in Figure 3 and Figure 4.
Figure 3 – Work that is exempt from being classified as building work as nominated in Section 13 of the DBP Regulation (1).
Figure 4 – Work that is exempt from being classified as building work as nominated in Section 13 of the DBP Regulation (1).
As part of the newly implemented legislation, many design consultants have to submit regulated design statements. These regulated design statements typically take the form of a title block and a declaration form that each of these consultants need to complete and provide on every drawing issued.
However, Fire Safety Engineers typically do not issue any drawings as part of the Construction Certificate. Therefore, a question now arises, what do we do in order to satisfy that the scope of works arising from the Fire Engineering Report has been documented and detailed in a manner by the respective Design Consultants?
It is noted that the Fire Engineering Report (FER) is considered the regulated design and the inclusion of the title block would satisfy this requirement. However, what about the Design Declaration Statement?
This item varies considerably between fire engineers, and currently Engineers Australia Society of Safety NSW have formed a working group to standardise the content and the reporting style for a Fire Engineer’s Design Declaration.
The approach that we have adopted at Lote is to review all the relevant designs from the respective consultants and check these off against what was nominated in the scope of works in the Fire Engineering Report. In practice, this requires us to coordinate with all the other design consultants and often cite their Design Compliance Declarations (DCD) and reference these in our declaration. This is because the design requirements/ scope of works arising from the Fire Engineering Report (FER) are captured by all other consultants in their drawings and specifications. The Fire Engineer does not produce any drawings hence needs to reference other consultants' DCD for components relied on in the design. Examples to illustrate the process are outlined below:
- If we are relying on a fire door mentioned in the FER, we need to check the architectural drawing to check that the fire door is shown or rely on the architect's declaration referencing FER.
- If we are relying on the fire hydrant system in the FER, we need to reference the DCD from the Fire Services Consultant in our declaration.
Consequently, all other consultants need to check that the Scope of Works arising from the FER have been incorporated into their drawings and specifications, particularly the Architect, Building Services Consultant and Fire Services Designer.
In closing, we note that this process is still in its early stages and with time and practice will become more efficient and standardised. The intent of the Design and Building Practitioners Act and Regulation is to ensure that designers exercise their technical expertise and provide a reasonable level of oversight and ensure that their design has been implemented in practice.
- NSW Government. Design and Building Practitioners Regulation 2021 [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/pdf/asmade/sl-2021-152
- NSW Government. Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020. 2020.