THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT – WEEK THAT WAS …

15 March 2019

This week I am currently in Canberra ahead of a Council Meeting tomorrow. We also learned last Monday of the passing of a past National President Mr Graham Fricker AM LFAIB. Graham served the institute with distinction for all of his building career and he was our National President from 2001 to 2003. He remained an active member in the South Australian Chapter after leaving the National Council in 2013 when our smaller format board was established.

The week has also seen a significant amount of AIB coverage for building related releases. We have now seen the implementation plans for all jurisdictions with respect to progressing the Shergold-Weir recommendations. Sadly the spread of responses and action is low in all states with some states still discussing whether they intend to adopt some recommendations (see Building Confidence Report).

The take away message may be that the regulators are leading ‘without confidence’ in multiple areas, so industry will still wear the blame because sites are identified by cranes with contractor names. Is it time to start hanging a sign for the local building minister on every site, to remind the public their confidence in the building system also includes areas outside of any main contractor having control of physical work?

I recently offered an idea to start industry thinking about the scale of our cladding rectification as a cost and resources problem with an eye watering price tag. I would welcome comments and discussion on how we can manage to pay for the repairs needed (see A National Pathway is needed to help solve Building Confidence article).

Don’t forget the Professional Excellence Awards for 2019 are nearly closed for submissions so there is less than a week left to finish off the submissions already started on line.

Finally this week has kept me on the phone and in teleconferences as we prepare for the next National Council meeting to review the last six months of AIB work since I became National President. Your National Councillors are currently travelling to Canberra or preparing for early flights tomorrow as we spend a full day on planning, presentations, budget management and final details for the Constructing our World Conference which is happening in September in Sydney.

So I look forward to updating you after the Council meeting with my next report.

David Burnell FAIB
National President, Australian Institute of Building

ACIF WELCOMES RELEASE OF THE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN FOR THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF SHERGOLD WEIR REPORT

The Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) has welcomed the implementation plan for the recommendations of the Shergold Weir report released yesterday.  ACIF commends the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) and the Federal, State and Territory Governments for the release of the implementation plan, albeit 13 months after the release of the Shergold Weir Report in February last year.

ACIF Executive Director James Cameron stated, “We note that no recommendations are “not supported” by any of the states. Also only a few recommendations are still “under consideration” by a few states, and these are definitely positives of the plan. “

“However, ACIF is concerned that the time frames for implementation of the recommendations are vague for many of the states, and some states say that several of the recommendations would be implemented in the “medium to long term”.”

“ACIF would like the recommendations implemented by May 2021, as recommended in the Shergold Weir Report” Mr Cameron added.

“Further, ACIF would prefer a quarterly or six-monthly update from the Building Ministers’ Forum on progress of implementation, rather than an annual update.”

“ACIF has supported greater consistency and moves towards uniform licensing in the construction industry across jurisdictions.  With the release of the Shergold Weir Report and implementation plan, this is a good opportunity to achieve greater consistency.”

“ACIF also welcomes that the implementation plan states that the BMF will work closely with industry peak bodies and professional associations to implement the recommendations, in particular those addressing professional development, career pathways, post-construction information management and the approval and review of designs/performance solutions.  In addition, the plan states that jurisdictions and coordinating bodies will engage industry as needed, including through workshops, reform working groups and written submissions, and this is encouraging.”

“ACIF and its member organisations are keen to assist the Building Ministers’ Forum and Federal and State Governments to implement the recommendations of the Shergold Weir Report by May 2021, and stand ready to discuss means to achieve this”, Mr Cameron stated.

 

About Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF)

Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) is the cohesive, trusted voice of the Australian Construction Industry. ACIF facilitates and supports an active dialogue between the key players in residential and non-residential building, and engineering construction, other industry groups, and government agencies. ACIF’s focus is on innovation, collaboration, equity and sustainability for the industry.

ACIF Members are the most significant Associations in the industry, spanning the entire asset creation process from feasibility through design, cost planning, construction and building and management. ACIF harnesses the resources of its Members to research and develop initiatives that benefit businesses of all sizes, from the largest of construction companies to small consultancies. More information on ACIF is available from www.acif.com.au.

BMF RELEASES BUILDING CONFIDENCE REPORT

The BMF commissioned the Building Confidence report, an independent expert examination of the broader compliance and enforcement problems within Australia’s building and construction system. The report concluded that there are a number of significant systematic deficiencies with Australia’s building industry culture and Australia’s governance arrangements, and made 24 recommendations to address these (see Table 1).

The BMF provided in-principle support for the report and identified national priorities. This implementation plan seeks to reaffirm Australian governments’ commitment to delivering reforms that will restore the community’s confidence in the nation’s building and construction industry. It sets out:

  • national priority reforms
  • a summary of reforms underway in each jurisdiction
  • planned reforms and proposed timeframes for each jurisdiction
  • industry involvement in the process.

Implementation of the reforms will evolve over time to respond to new, innovative approaches and emerging policy priorities. The BMF is committed to consistent and concerted effort over the next few years to devise and implement comprehensive solutions involving government and industry. As such, this plan will be regularly reviewed by the BMF, with updated reports from jurisdictions provided to the BMF at least annually, or sooner if required.

Download Building Confidence Report here 

AIB – CURRENT ISSUES COMMENT

In the first case in Australia brought against a Member’s company, in relation to aluminium composite panels (ACPs), VCAT apportioned zero costs directly to the builder.

His Honour Judge Woodward, ruled that L.U. Simon Builders Pty Ltd, the Registered Building Practitioner and AIB Fellow, Jim Moschoyiannis “did not fail to exercise reasonable care in the construction of Melbourne’s Lacrosse. “  

The case began in 2017, when the building owners launched legal proceedings against L.U. Simon Builders.  Two years later, after 22 sitting days involving 91 volumes of documents the judge apportioned 39 per cent liability to the fire engineer, 33 per cent to the building surveyor, 25 per cent to the architect and 3 per cent to the resident who caused the fire.

It was found that L.U. Simon Builders and Mr Moschoyiannis complied with project documentation produced by the consultant team and the requirements of the Building Permit.  Paragraph 301 of the VCAT findings notes:

 “The evidence in the proceeding generally clearly demonstrates that, with the exception of fire engineers, there was in 2011 a poor understanding among building professionals (at least in Australia) of the fire risks associated with ACPs. And in the overall cohort of building professionals, there is no reason to expect that building firms would have a superior understanding to, for example, that of architects and building surveyors. In fact, the reverse is probably true. Given their level of qualifications and the nature of their responsibilities, it would be fair to expect fire engineersbuilding surveyors and architects (in that order) to have a better grasp than building practitioners ofire risks and the application of the BCA to those risks.

The judge also found in favour of the builder with regard to the product selection and approval:

I have found above that the choice of the Alucobest product over Alucobond PE (as it came to be known) was not a necessary condition for the ignition of the Alucobest panels…. Thus, in simple terms, I am satisfied that LU Simon’s selection of Alucobest ACP’s as “indicative to Alucobond” did not cause the fire or fire spread.”

There is currently an Alucobond Combustible Cladding Class Action, which is a product liability claim, against 3A Composites GmbH and Halifax Vogel Group Pty Ltd (respondents), the manufacturers of Alucobond PE cladding, with possible class actions pending in relation to other manufacturers of PE core cladding products.

Since the time of the fire in 2014, our Members have endured sustained attacks and accusations, by regulators, bureaucrats and organisations, who themselves were ‘asleep at the wheel’, bringing our Members and industry participants into disrepute, impacting their professional and personal reputations.

Government regulators and their advisors all failed to act on information they had that polyethylene-core panels would not pass the building code’s combustibility requirements and ignored expert warnings going as far back as 1990.

Despite industries attempts to provide regulators with practical and reasonable solutions to deal with the thousands of buildings in similar situations to Lacrosse and Neo200, there is still no agreement on what to do with the existing cladding, as well as no clear understanding by the wider construction industry, and the consumer is still none the wiser yet here we are five years after Lacrosse.

The solution to prevent further issues relies on firstly recognising that government, regulators and industry have all played a part in allowing ACPs with a polyethylene-core and other products to be used in an inappropriate manner.  We now have to rely on the same group to address the existing buildings with cladding issues.

The AIB, at both state and national levels, is currently proactively working to find a resolution to this critical matter through our ongoing participation with bodies and forums including:

  • Building Ministers Forum
  • Senate enquiry
  • ABCB
  • ACIF
  • National Cladding Summit

Our primary responsibilities are to our member base and the building industry at large and we shall continue to work closely, update, advise, educate and advocate on behalf of all stakeholders.

Download PDF

COALITION BUILDS OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION

Kelly O’Dwyer MP / Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations & Minister for Women

Media Release

COALITION BUILDS OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION

The Coalition Government is determined to see more women in work in Australia’s building and construction industry, our nation’s third largest industry.

Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations and Minister for Women, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, announced on International Women’s Day funding of $675,000 for Women Building Australia, a construction industry led program to increase the participation of young women working in the sector.

“The construction industry is Australia’s third largest industry and employs more than one million Australians,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

“With an additional 300,000 people needed to enter the industry over the next decade, there are great professional and career opportunities for Australian women in the sector.”

“Whilst the sector has traditionally been male dominated, statistics have shown that women working in the building and construction industry leads to better business performance and workplace morale, and a decrease in mental illness rates.”

“By introducing more Australian girls to the industry, and supporting Australian women already in the industry, we can build a great future for women working in building and construction.”

Through a national mentoring program and a national career expo program Women Building Australia will promote, retain encourage and empower women to enter and remain in the building and construction industry.

Today’s announcement follows a successful 12-month trial of the Women Building Australia program.

The funding will be provided as part of the Coalition Government’s Women’s Leadership and Development Program.

“Whilst there are more women in work than ever before, with women’s full time employment and the female participation rate reaching record highs last month, we want to see even more women active in the workforce, including in the building and construction industry,” Minister O’Dwyer concluded.

 

Media contacts: Lachlan McNaughton 0433 642 145, Scott Barnes 0436 611 632

The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Melbourne

MESSAGE FROM THE CEO

One of the things that I am most look forward to in this role is working with an energetic and strategic thinking National Board – or as we like to call it, National Council. Every now and again in my E News column, I will introduce you to a Council member so you can get to know a little more of their background and in essence, what they stand for and what they would like to bring to the AIB.

This week, I catch up with Tamica D’Uva from Western Australia.

The AIB is part of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) – where we are currently developing a suite of policy priorities leading up to the next federal election.

In saying this, we would be keen to hear your views on procurement issues of concern, for example; product conformance and compliance, allocation of risk, adequate documentation, poor payment practices, non – standard contract conditions etc.

Your views will then feed into a specific policy that we can lobby government with. Please send your views and concerns to ceo@aib.org.au.

And finally, don’t say you weren’t warned –  Entries for the 2019 Professional Excellence Awards close on the 15th of March! (all entries must be completed by this date, not just started). I trust that you will not only enter, but encourage others to do so and be a part of a great program! Start and complete your entry here.

Have a great weekend ahead everyone.

Greg Hughes

THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT – WEEK THAT WAS …

This week has seen a significant amount of AIB representation at activities focussed on cladding. I have had a few days involvement in the public arena with the assistance of our CEO Greg Hughes.

Grenfell Towers

I started the week last Monday attending a presentation hosted at RMIT’s School of Property, Construction and Project Management with support from the Victorian Building Association, the Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Future Fuels CRC. Dame Judith Hackitt presented to industry, government and community representatives this morning about her Building a Safer Future final report.

The event included an outline of the Victorian response from Ted Baillieu – Chair of the Cladding Task Force in Victoria & a regulators update from Sue Eddy CEO at the VBA who both signalled action and the current progress in identifying buildings and the urgent action still required in response following the recent Neo200 fire.

Dame Judith was then provided the majority of the two hour period to provide a presentation to outline the key issues to an audience of approximately 200 industry, government and community representatives about her Building a Safer Future final report. The UK government has already indicated the 53 recommendations in the report will be adopted in full.

2nd Annual Cladding Summit – Sydney

The focus then moved to NSW for Wednesday and Thursday with both Greg and I attending and facilitating the program for the Safe Cladding, Buildings and Façade Innovation Summit in Sydney. I provided the Opening Address for both days of the summit with Greg chairing the program for day 1, and I chaired the program for day 2.

The conference attracted a wide range of practitioners across building, regulation, local government, government agencies, fire engineers, private building surveyors, certified testing bodies and product suppliers. We opened with an address from Minister Karen Andrews MP – Chair of the BMF. International speakers included Roy Wilsher and Gary Strong from the UK. Our local experts included Adam Dalrymple, Jonathan Barnett, Stephen Halliday, Andrew Harris and John Prendergast. We also had additional panel sessions and case studies that covered all areas impacted with respect to safe cladding including fire safety, essential services, testing, verification, compliance, digital transformation to enhance safety, sustainability and performance, financing and insurance, remediation and rectification of at risk buildings, local government building compliance and management and alternative solutions.

The key message was the use of PE core materials is a significant hazard, the size of the problem will include a large number of buildings in both the residential and commercial sectors, while new buildings now have bans on ACP with PE cores greater than 30% no consistent solution is being offered across all states to start the process of re-cladding and making safe existing structures.

Roy Wilsher – Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (UK) provided the full detail of the fire brigade response around the fire at Grenfell Tower and the subsequent enquiry which has taken statements from some 400 people with respect to events leading up to the fire as well as the actions on the day.

Andrew Harris – Director, Technical Futures and Engineering Excellence Group at Laing O’Rourke gave a stunning presentation of disruptive change for future construction systems and the likely way forward that may include cladding and building systems that are radically different from products that are currently available.

We closed the conference on Thursday evening and then received details of the VCAT Decision released by Judge Woodward on 28 February 2019 in relation to the Lacrosse Fire.

While the news headline was talking sensationally about damages of $5.75m being awarded for Lacrosse owners. Despite the sensational headline an entirely different picture of the VCAT decision is revealed by actually referring to the 227 page report.

Some key statements identified within the first dozen pages probably frame the decision with more clarity than the headline and the summary starts at pages 7 & 8

  • However, the Builder did not fail to exercise reasonable care …
  • The Building Surveyor breached its Consultant Agreement with the developer executed in January or February 2010 and later novated to The Builder (“GG Consultant Agreement”), by failing to exercise due care …
  • The Architect breached its Consultant Agreement with the developer executed on about 4 August 2010 and later novated to The Builder (“EF Consultant Agreement”) by failing to exercise due care …
  • The Fire Engineer breached its Consultant Agreement with the developer executed on about 9 July 2010 and later novated to The Builder (“TN Consultant Agreement”) by failing to exercise due care …

This decision may not be the end of the matter, but it shows for this project and its owners they now have a damages decision, the finance and insurance industries are already working to complete the recladding work, and this building will soon be among the list of those that have been made safe. This is only one of thousands facing similar cladding problems.

However our industry will face increased attention in the coming weeks and months, and as this week has shown all jurisdictions are yet to have a clear path forward. It appears all States don’t want to be the first to legislate a solution for the industry and the preparedness to identify what buildings need action is also mixed across the country.

This decision will also have an impact downstream for building owners and managers around essential services maintenance, and proper record keeping along with independent verification that buildings once completed must be correctly maintained for the life of the building. Life safety issues will gain a larger importance with regulators and body corporate committees can no longer avoid keeping their buildings safe because they can’t make a decision on necessary works.

So perhaps this is the ideal time to recognise that government, regulators and industry have all played a part up to this point, in allowing ACP and other products to be previously used in a non-compliant manner. The solution therefore relies on all of the same players now working together to quickly address the existing buildings that need rework to this dangerous cladding.

David Burnell FAIB
National President
Australian Institute of Building

THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT – WEEK THAT WAS …

This week saw the NSW State Government release the final report from the independent investigation into Sydney’s Opal Tower issue/s.

As articulated by the NSW State Government (media release), one of the biggest recommendations related to the report is about ‘registering engineers’. The AIB welcomes Minister Kean’s response as a good first step – builders need to have confidence in the engineering as well as other design professions as much as the public. The statutory registration of engineers in NSW is a welcome addition of both transparency and accountability to the industry. We look to other jurisdictions to also follow this lead, and note Victoria already registers professional practitioners in many of the engineering disciplines.

It is also pleasing that Minister Kean in his statement talks about ‘the strength of the National Construction Code’ (NCC) as well as Australian building standards in terms of building safety. Not surprisingly, the AIB, is committed to this type of thinking.

Again, our call is that industry should be able to rely on a national framework for construction led by all state, territory and federal Ministers using the National Code with a uniform interpretation of the specific requirements. We must adopt a regime of national licencing for all building practitioners and this must be complemented by an industry wide approach to continuing professional development for all licence holders.

Regulators must start to sit up and take greater notice of what needs immediate reform / change.

Equally, the AIB will continue to push hard at every opportunity our support of the Shergold Weir Report and its recommendations for a better industry as the baseline for all jurisdictions. Notwithstanding all of this, I reiterate the strong message we offered at the recent Building Ministers Forum. The position of the AIB is that – as an industry Building Construction represents more than 10% of Australia’s workforce and more than 12% of Australia’s GDP, surely it is time as we head into a federal election we consider how a dedicated Federal Minister of Building and Construction might be just the champion we are looking for in matters of consistency in ‘building outcomes across Australia’ that we continue to talk about on a daily basis.

David Burnell FAIB
National President, Australian Institute of Building

MESSAGE FROM THE CEO

One of the first significant meetings of the year was the Building Ministers Forum held in Hobart last week, where state and territory Ministers gathered to talk about a myriad of current issues confronting the profession. National President, David Burnell attended the meeting and I have asked him to give us a brief overview of what transpired at the meeting. The AIB was a participant of the morning session alongside other allied associations:

We were asked to report on … What is industry doing to support cultural change?
While the direct response from AIB touched on the active work we are involved in, our representation for the benefit of the construction industry was around our participation and contribution to the work of both the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and Standards Australia (SA).

We also highlighted the series of information and CPD training events we have hosted that directly supporting the Shergold – Weir report:

  • Bronwyn Weir presenting about her report in detail;
  • A Legal Masterclass presentation;
  • A Flammable Aluminium Composite Cladding information seminar;
  • The Top 10 legal issues for 2018 which focused on cladding and non-compliant building products co-hosted with Minter Ellison;
  • Building Regulatory Reform in Australia presented by Wayne Liddy a senior AIBS practitioner;
  • Cladding presentations and fire safety and engineering discussions around the code and identifying compliant cladding products presented by Jonathan Barnett;
  • We are currently attempting to arrange a series of presentations for each State by the Hon. John Fahey to talk about the ABCB’s response to Shergold – Weir.

The industry presentations from all other groups then consistently echoed the same themes expressed within the AIB closing remarks. Read full report.

And finally this week, there is just one month left to get your entries in for this year’s Professional Excellence Awards. Don’t delay in getting that recognition that you and or your colleagues so richly deserve. Head to our website for all the details on how to enter.

Have a great weekend ahead everyone

Greg Hughes

POSITIVE STEPS FORWARD FROM THE BUILDING MINISTERS FORUM

From National President, David Burnell and CEO, Greg Hughes

The AIB was last week invited to attend and present to the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) in Hobart along with 21 other industry and employer groups as a follow up to the last meeting held in August 2018.

Our task was to report on … What is industry doing to support cultural change?

While our response was around some of the work we have been involved in through seminars, presentations etc, it also highlighted our support to the Shergold Weir Report, as well as work we have done with the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and Standards Australia (SA).

The Shergold Weir Report clearly identified that our current regulatory system is not robust and the headline grabbing failures of recent times can only be improved if all the parties take action.

This industry should be able to rely on a national framework for construction led by this group of Ministers that includes:
• State and Federal ministers who work cooperatively as the lead regulators;
• Universal adoption and use of NCC volumes 1-3 across all jurisdictions;
• National Licencing for all building practitioners;
• Adopting an industry wide approach to continuing professional development as a requirement for all licence holders;
Following the meeting in Tasmania, an official Communique was released that highlighted some of the key outcomes of the gathering:

BMF Communique

The AIB also noted that the NSW Government’s Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean issued a press release late yesterday (10/02/19) articulating ‘plans to improve the building and construction industry’.

NSW Government release

While the Institute is cognisant of a looming NSW election, the fact remains that whichever party is successful at the ballot box, the AIB supports the establishment of a Building Commissioner who would in effect, take responsibility for licensing and auditing of practitioners.

This model is one that should be replicated across the country in all states and territories.

The AIB is also in a strong position to support states and territories who execute an initiative such as this with the National Building Professionals Register (NBPR).

Some Government licensing bodies refer to the NBPR as a guide for an assessment of professional competence.

The Institute welcomes this positive news across many fronts.

‘The AIB supports the need for a robust system of certification, licencing and education for Project Managers and other professionals within our organisation’