Australian building and design standards need an overhaul.

In the midst of a nationwide apartment development boom, thousands of strata property stakeholders continue to face the unacceptable risks posed by a construction sector under pressure.

My company, as one of the largest body corporate management firms in Australia, is at the coalface, and is seeing disturbing instances of shoddy construction Australia wide.

We’ve seen products that don’t meet fire safety standards cause multi-storey infernos, just under 4000 kilometres of fire-risk electric cabling go unaccounted for within Australian buildings and homes, and the threat of concrete cancer re-emerge in some of our biggest cities.

The fact that the aluminium cladding product linked to a 15-storey Victorian building blaze and the cabling that warranted a formal ACCC recall were used amid failing safety standards will surprise few in the industry.

Any lack of surprise likely stems from the price-driven performance that many property owners nationwide and stakeholders within the strata sector have had to deal with in developments over the past decade.

These dangers would take the headline if it were not for reports suggesting that in recent years, 40 per cent of Victorian property owners have suffered financial loss due to building defects.

An Engineers Australia report last month also identified that 85 per cent of New South Wales apartments were defective on completion.

Three in every four residences in the City of Sydney are apartments, and with 20,000 new units projected to come into the market over the next few years, there needs to be some urgent attention given to quality construction standards by all governments.

The breadth of what’s been uncovered so far begs the question, what don’t we know about yet?

We have over 100 franchisees spread across every state and territory and they are observing complaints and building defects consistent with this very much being a national problem.

With high density living firmly locked into the future of Australia’s biggest cities, there needs to be an in depth review to examine how deep this issue runs.

We would like to see the focus of any review directed at the standards at which “professionals” can operate at, the strength of governing bodies charged with enforcing codes of conduct and regulatory measures, and the monitoring mechanisms in place to control the use of imported construction products.

Stephen Raff is chief executive, Ace Body Corporate Management.

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  1. Building deficiencies in significant degrees are a major concern with new Strata Owners. In an number of cases the Developer/Builder completes a project to the minimal standard/compliance requirements, resulting in the Body Corporate having to wear the cost of the Developers “rush to completion” rather than Developer/Builder taking “pride in completion”.

  2. The draft NSW amendments to strata laws contain an idea for a new building “bond”. The idea being that 2% of the building sum is kept in a pool specifically to address any defects that come to light.

    I think it’s a fabulous idea for both body corporates and developers, though of course with some buildings 2% would be a drop in the ocean. Better the developer pay up than what’s happening now with unfortunate lot owners so often being stuck with the bill.

  3. I am President of the Victorian Building Action Group. We have been trying to get genuine reform for owners in the domestic building industry – many of us working for years now. However, owners are not considered stakeholders and have no access to ‘consumer rights’. We have been locked out of any consultation and have no representation. The industry has a proven record of failure for 22 years – the result of systemic failure and corruption injustice. It has worsened every year since 2005, and the last decade has seen so many lives ruined, with the actual statistics still hidden by Government agencies.

    We need to unite as one, we impacted by this shocking consumer disaster – strata owners and domestic building consumers, together losing probably $60+ Billion dollars every year, if not more. We must pressure Government now. This deliberate damage is horrendous and must stop. This is like domestic violence and will only be changed through public outrage and pressure.

  4. Unfortunately we are also seeing the same concerns with our clients throughout Australia. We represent owners of strata properties and in the majority of recently constructed buildings our owners experience building defects of differing degrees. With the development boom comes increased pressure to deliver new developments quickly. This is when the best developers really stand out, having pride in their product and making rectifications in a timely manner when required.