two men and a woman standing
L–R: Kevin Anderson, David Chandler and Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler is looking to hire up to 60 professionals from the construction industry to work as building project auditors, as he fleshes out plans for a major overhaul of the state’s building industry.

Chandler is looking for architects, engineers, site managers, certifiers and other industry experts to help weed out bad practice in the apartment construction industry.

The Commissioner told The Fifth Estate the focus will be on identifying the riskiest project teams, as opposed to the riskiest individual developers.

“We will be working with ratings agencies to devise a tool that looks at risk from a project perspective rather than a developer perspective,”Mr Chandler said .

“This will give us a whole new line of sight.”

The move is part of the NSW Government’s building reform agenda.  Last October, Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, introduced the Design and Building Practitioners Bill into the NSW lower house in a bid to increase protections for people buying apartments.

The government was forced to tighten building standards after a series of apartment buildings in Sydney were evacuated because of major faults that put residents at risk, and caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

The bill, which was blocked in a previous form by the Labor opposition and Greens MP David Shoebridge, will likely return to the upper house for debate later this month.

It includes new duties of care for designers to declare that their designs are properly developed by qualified, accredited professionals in accordance with the Building Code of Australia.

The legislation also requires that at the completion of a project, builders produce as-built drawings and manuals and declare that construction has been performed in accordance with the declared designs as well as the Building Code of Australia.

Mr Chandler said he also wanted to “broaden the conversation” by including representatives from the education sector and the digital economy, plus an ethicist and a construction industry student, to his “transformation” team of 15 people.

“We need to include new voices at the table, we need a broader conversation,” he said. See a recent article by Mr Chandler:

Teams of auditors will sift through reams of existing data on developers and people who work with them checking everything from phoenixing history, insurance claims, court action and complaints made against them or against the certifiers they use.

The auditors will identify the projects with the riskiest profiles – probably about 10 per cent of all apartment projects – using a ratings tool being designed with the help of data companies and ratings agencies.

“It will be the most potent tool anyone has ever seen a regulator use,” said Mr Chandler, adding that he believes it will be a more rigorous process than the old days of council building inspectors.

From 1 July, assuming the bill makes it through parliament, occupancy certificates (the document that allows developers to legally settle with buyers) will have to be lodged six months in advance so they can be audited.

Any project that is deemed high risk will be closely monitored and certificates of occupation may be withheld.

Auditors will have the power to visit construction sites, and the Commission will have the power to issue orders to dig up work and even to stop work.

“An apartment buyer won’t suffer any negative impacts if they refuse to go through with a sale [because a project has not received a certificate of occupancy,”  Mr Chandler said.

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