Industry experts propose changes to National Construction Code

Industry experts propose changes to National Construction Code
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Engineers Australia is advocating for changes to the National Construction Code to address the primary cause of defects in Australian apartments and commercial buildings: water leaks. These leaks account for 80 to 90 per cent of defects, costing building owners and insurance companies up to $3 billion annually.

Industry experts from the Watershedding Community of Practice, in collaboration with the Australian Building Codes Board, have proposed four critical changes to the National Construction Code (NCC):

  1. Using gravity: Implement new requirements to naturally collect, redirect and drain water, similar to methods used by the Romans over 2,000 years ago.
  2. Fixing flat areas: Eliminate leaks by removing flat surfaces from balconies, roofs and basement floors, which are common trouble spots for water issues.
  3. Managing underground water: Introduce guidelines for addressing underground water. New guidelines for outdoor concrete slabs include casting the following into the structure while being built, not after:
    1. A slope of (1:80) falls to drainage outlets.
    2. A 70mm step down at sliding doors.
    3. A 70mm edge (hob) around the perimeter.
    4. 50mm edges (hobs) at construction joints.
  4. Concrete is key: Recognise the vital role of concrete slabs in waterproofing. Structural engineers will need to account for how slabs will sag over ten years, ensuring the structure continues to drain effectively.

Michael van Koeverden, a member of Engineers Australia and the Watershedding Community of Practice, emphasises the urgency of these changes.

“Urgent change is required to address building performance and leakage issues,” says van Koeverden. “Structural engineers play a critical role in preventing building leaks.”

“While membranes typically last 10 to 15 years, structural designs are intended to last 40 to 60 years. When membranes fail, the structure must continue to drain water. The proposed changes to the NCC 2025 aim to address these issues by improving design and construction processes and enhancing collaboration among all parties involved in building projects.”

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Romilly Madew, CEO of Engineers Australia, supports the proposed NCC 2025 changes: “Engineers are critical to delivering resilient and safe buildings, and we cannot meet Australia’s unprecedented housing demand without addressing the challenges facing the industry.”

“We fully support the government’s efforts to implement comprehensive building reforms. Improving standards is a responsibility that spans the entire industry, including builders, architects, developers and designers.”

Engineers Australia encourages public feedback on the NCC 2025 improvements related to waterproofing and watershedding. The proposed changes are open for review on the Australian Building Codes Board website.

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