Queensland has become the first state to officially ban the use of flammable polyethylene core aluminium composite panels, part of a raft of changes in the newly passed Queensland Building Plan legislation.
The government also intends to push for a national ban on the products.
Other reforms include the creation of chain of responsibility laws, which will make everyone in the supply chain accountable for ensuring products are fit for purpose.
The Queensland Building and Construction Commission has been given increased powers to investigate the use of NCBPs and take action against non-compliance, and the relevant minister will be able to issue warnings and recall products.
The reforms also cover matters such as ensuring security of payment for subcontractors, and the introduction of project bank accounts for major government projects.
Building certification is also in the spotlight, with a commitment to strengthening inspection and compliance process.
The government will partner with industry to improve professional standards on the part of building certifiers, provide more support to practitioners and encourage new entrants into the profession.
It will also act to implement the forthcoming recommendations from the Shergold and Weir review into compliance and enforcement measures.
Sustainability on the cards
Sustainable buildings are another focus, with the explicit goal of ensuring housing contributes to the government target of net zero by 2050.
Rules will be relaxed on solar hot water installation to reduce costs, and solar panels are being installed on government buildings in locations such as Lockhart River to reduce diesel reliance, and on public housing in the trial areas of Cairns, Rockhampton and Logan.
In addition, the government will look to improve the energy efficiency of government buildings and trial the application of Green Star rating tools.
It will also develop Queensland Development Codes that provide appropriate standards for green roofs and green walls on commercial buildings, and to guide maintenance of energy efficiency features.
A draft Queensland Development Code will be drafted that addresses accessibility of homes in line with the Liveable Housing Australia guidelines.
The government is also going to investigate developing an accessibility disclosure scheme to apply to properties for rent, sale or construction.
Licensing has also been addressed, with tougher penalties to be put in place for persons carrying out unlicensed contractor building work.
The government will be establishing a Building and Tradie Assistance Register and Building Certifier Register, and look at regulating off-site construction of prefabricated homes and rationalising the fire protection licensing framework.
Another aspect of licensing reforms includes strengthening the regulatory framework for house energy assessors and mechanical services, including medical gas, air conditioning and refrigeration and plumbing.
The Building Products Innovation Council’s executive officer Rodger Hills told The Fifth Estate the organisation supported the bill.
“Now let’s just get on with it,” he said.
Phil Wilkinson, AIRAH’s executive manager – government relations and technical resources, said the reforms were “brilliant”.
“This a great step in the right direction, and AIRAH has been advocating for many of these steps,” Mr Wilkinson said.
He said it was a “really progressive step” that maintenance for energy efficiency had been called up, as it was one of the areas the HVAC industry has identified as having massive impact on emissions reduction.
“Overall, AIRAH applauds the changes, and can see that they provide opportunities for increased employment. We are looking forward to working through the details in partnership with industry and the government.”
Could the election jeopardise things?
In announcing the QBP reforms going live as a legislative fait accompli, Queensland minister for housing and public works Mick de Brenni said it was a “blueprint for ongoing confidence and growth for the industry”.
“The Queensland Building Plan is the result of almost two years of consultation with industry and the community,” Mr de Brenni said.
“This is a comprehensive plan to secure the future of the sector and I would like to thank everyone who has had their say on the proposed reforms.”
There is one immediate challenge ahead for the building industry, however, and that is the snap election.
According to an industry source, it leaves the industry without guidance as to how to interpret the act and its requirements.
The guidance material and codes of practice the government was developing are now in limbo, as under the state’s regulatory framework, any such material must go before Parliament for approval.
“The industry will now have to wait until the new government is in place [for the guidance materials],” the source said.
On the bright side, unlike many suites of reforms that are quickly undone should the opposition take power, the source said these reforms have bipartisan support.