Hobson Engineering is going the extra mile to ensure construction businesses understand their responsibility of structural bolting and masonry anchor compliance, following recent changes to the National Construction Code.
The National Construction Code (NCC) 2022, which is mandatory for construction professionals to follow, now includes new references to design standards for structural bolting and masonry anchors. In an effort to ensure complete compliance across the construction industry and create safer and more reliable structures as a result, Hobson Engineering is working hard to enlighten professionals in the sector about what is required to comply with the new design and product standards as outlined in the latest NCC.
Alex Sharp, senior engineer at Hobson Engineering, defines the NCC as the overarching set of requirements for the design, construction and performance of buildings and structures in Australia. The code is not specific, he says, rather it points construction professionals in the right direction.
“Whether it’s residential or commercial construction, all projects need to be in line with the NCC,” says Sharp. “People don’t often consider the quality aspects of fasteners and what is required for a nut, bolt or any kind of fixing to comply to this code.”
“The NCC tells people that a building needs to be designed to the AS4100 standard, and within that standard, it will tell people that the connections they use need to comply with a particular product standard.”
“At Hobson Engineering, we find a lot of non-compliant product in the Australian market, which is a big issue in regard to safety,” says Sharp. “It is, however, understandable that people are allowed to get away with this, because you can’t expect designers and higher-end stakeholders to know all the details about a specific product and how it needs to be designed to comply.”
The NCC 2022 includes a substantial change to design standards – in particular AS 4100:2021 which references AS/NZS 1252:2016, which is the Australian structural bolting standard. But the standard has been updated to address risks associated with structural bolts.
“People were using the excuse of structural bolting standards not being in the NCC to buy and use cheaper products,” says Sharp. “With the new NCC, that’s all out the window and there are no more excuses.”
“We often have customers tell us that we’re telling them that they have to use this new product standard, but our competitors are saying different and selling them the cheaper product – that’s the biggest challenge for us.”
Parallel to the new design standards, the NCC references a standard on how to fabricate and erect structures, which wasn’t referenced before. Now that this is included, Sharp says he expects to see many more people asking for quality test certificates from the suppliers and manufacturers of fasteners.
The reason why the NCC needed to be updated, explains Sharp, was because there were serious safety issues in Australia that needed to be addressed – there were structural elements failing and people getting hurt.
Since its inception, Hobson Engineering has ensured it is ahead of the curve in making sure that its products are compliant. Even before the release of the new NCC, the company has always conducted assembly testing in line with AS1252:2016.
Now that the 2022 NCC has been released, it has provided further input around testing requirements for fasteners, in order to get the outcomes the industry wants and needs, which is safer and more reliable products. Hobson Engineering adopted these testing provisions as soon as they were released and has been pushing them ever since.
“Those importing fasteners from other countries take on the legal responsibility of the product’s performance,” says Sharp. “We’re happy to take on that responsibility, which is why we’re out there educating the industry on why compliance to the NCC is important.”
“We work closely with other non-commercial entities, such as the Australian Steel Institute, to educate the industry and share technical information so that people think about the products they are using.”
With the new NCC – AS1252, 2016 – some European standards have been nominated as an alternative, as well as an additional standard. Before this, all structural bolts were an 800MPa 8.8 metric bolt. With the allowance of the Eurocode standard, the construction industry can now use 10.9 metric bolts, which are essentially a stronger 1,000MPa structural bolt.
“Some people in the industry were using 10.9 metric bolts before the new NCC was released, and they shouldn’t have been,” says Sharp. “We often saw cases of construction companies using a non-structural product standard, which doesn’t have as much testing.”
“Now, 10.9 is allowed under the NCC; it’s allowed in the design standards, and we have a product standard that’s available.”
With the improved strength of 10.9 metric bolts, constructors can use less bolts, and designers have more flexibility in how they design connections.
When it comes to bolt tightening methods, the Eurocode standard now outlined in the NCC nominates a product, called K2, that can be tightened using a torque method. Within Australia’s fabrication and erection standards, before the release of the new NCC, turn-of-nut and using a DTI washer were the only two methods outlined on how to tighten bolts.
“A lot of people want to use torque because they see it as an easier and more reliable way of tightening,” says Sharp. “But if you want to do it you need to have a very consistent, reliable product and you can only really do it with this K2 product, which is from the Eurocode standard.”
“Now that the Eurocode standard has been referenced by our standards, which has been referenced by the design standard, which has been referenced by the NCC, it is fully compliant in Australia.”
With the Australian Standards now aligned with European methods, masonry anchor design is also improved. The masonry anchor design standard – AS5216 – has been around for a while now and was referenced in the previous NCC. Before the 2022 version was released, there were no standards for masonry anchor design in Australia, rather they were designed based on the propriety company’s standard. With European methods now referenced in the NCC, European Technical Assessment (ETA) is required for all propriety products.
“Designers and suppliers now have to provide customers with an ETA, which outlines all of the design criteria used to design the masonry anchors,” says Sharp. “Additionally, AS5216 has been updated to include more design specifications.”
“We want people to really start thinking about the products they are using, ensuring that each and every product complies with the design standard as outlined in the NCC.”
“All fastener standards – even though there are two different methods of demonstrating compliance – need to comply with the NCC and its demonstration requirements, which for fasteners is through product standards and for anchors is through a design standard that requires specific test reporting using an ETA.”
At the end of the day, says Sharp, the contractors signing off on non-compliant designs are the ones that will come unstuck.
“Even if it’s not technically your fault because the product failed, it is still your responsibility to do your due diligence,” says Sharp. “You should be thinking about and collecting all quality documents.”
Further to the legal aspects of compliance in the Australian construction industry, the NCC is there to ensure safety. Hobson Engineering works tirelessly to ensure that its fasteners are compliant for the safety of all stakeholders involved in the building of structures, including the end user.