Shergold Weir Report Implementation

28 April 2019

The Building Confidence Report Implementation Plan has been released at last. What does it mean for the architecture profession? Where are the opportunities and what are the challenges? How is the ACA working on a response? We present a summary of the plan and ACA commentary for each state and territory. 

In April 2018, Professor Peter Shergold and Ms Bronwyn Weir delivered the Building Confidence report to the Building Ministers Forum (BMF). The report serves as an assessment of the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia. It outlined a suite of recommendations, several of which affect architects during the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of buildings. Key issues identified include the registration of building practitioners; insufficient supervision, auditing and expertise in the industry; and a need for better documentation.

An important recommendation from the report was that the BMF prioritises the preparation of an implementation plan to enable all recommendations to be implemented within three years. It stipulated that a full list of agreed actions should be prepared, with jurisdictional performance against each one to be reported annually, allowing the BMF to monitor achievement.

The states and territories took a year to publicly respond to these findings and recommendations, with a collective response released by the Building Ministers Forum in March 2019 in a document called the Building Confidence Report Implementation Plan (BCRIP). It is heartening that, in general, the response identifies the principles as partially implemented, fully implemented, or supported in principle. However, it is a little short on specifics, especially regarding timeframes for implementation.

It is clear that there is a need for industry consultation and pressure to ensure that these recommendations are fully implemented. Concerted, timely and consolidated advocacy is particularly important given that it is likely to be some time before the Building Ministers Forum meets again due to the upcoming federal election. This, combined with the delay in releasing a response, means that it now seems unlikely that the states and territories will be able to meet the original deadline.

The ACA believes that implementing the Shergold Weir report provides an opportunity for greater consistency across Australia and a chance for architects to re-establish and redefine their professional role in the construction industry. We look forward to working with our colleagues across the industry and government to help make this happen.

Summary of recommendations

The BCRIP includes a table summarising the position of each jurisdiction in relation to the 24 recommendations, demonstrating the extent to which different states are at different stages of implementation. 

Snapshot of jurisdiction’s positions by recommendation (Table 1, BCRIP)

1 - Unnamed

South Australia

The response from the South Australian government provides support or in-principle support on all recommendations except 11 – giving private building surveyors enhanced supervisory powers, which is noted as “under consideration”. It does not give target dates for any of the recommendations apart from those already implemented.

SA timeframes for response (BCRIP)

4 - Unnamed

Item 1 recommends that each jurisdiction requires the registration of the following categories of building practitioners involved in the design, construction and maintenance of buildings: builder, site or project manager, building surveyor, building inspector, architect, engineer, designer / draftsperson, plumber and fire safety practitioner

The South Australian government response focuses on the role of building surveyors and inspection regimes. The response notes the new accredited practitioner scheme implemented on 1 April 2019 as part of the new Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016. This appears to only cover practitioners involved in the planning and building approval process, and does not include the other professionals identified in the Shergold Weir report – for example, engineers, designer/draftspersons and fire safety practitioners – at least in the short to medium term. Registration of architects is long-established in South Australia; however, no mention is made of compulsory CPD or the National Construction Code (NCC).

Recommendation 20 (that a comprehensive building manual for commercial buildings be lodged with the building owners and made available to successive purchasers) is not specifically mentioned in the South Australian government response. We, as architectural professionals, should start the process of working out what this looks like and how it might assist in helping us retain the role of the architect during construction.

The ACA – SA will continue to monitor progress and attempt to ensure South Australia fulfils its obligations to the Building Ministers Forum.

Queensland and Northern Territory 

In Queensland and the Northern Territory, many of the recommendations from the BCRIP have already been implemented or partially implemented. The Queensland government developed the Queensland Building Plan in 2017 and this included many of the issues raised as recommendations in the BCRIP. To date there has been considerable focus on the issue of non-conforming building products and security of payment issues raised in this plan. The BCRIP suggests Queensland will address the outstanding recommendations in the short term (four recommendations) and medium term (eleven recommendations). There is no clear indication of what these timeframes mean in real terms, so it would be logical and useful for the Queensland government to identify actual dates for the implementation of these recommendations.

Qld timeframes for response (BCRIP)

BCRIP Qld response

The Minister responsible has been open to discussion with our profession regarding these key issues and a regular communication channel has been established. He is enthusiastic about following up on the recommendations from the Shergold Weir Report and the BCRIP and has signalled his intention to continue to act on these matters. The opportunity to continue to discuss and resolve these matters exists and the ACA – Qld/NT is working with the Australian Institute of Architects to provide a united voice for the profession in Queensland.

The Northern Territory government has committed to preparing a reform package in the latter half of 2019 and ACA representatives in NT will seek to be involved with them to support and contribute to this plan of action.

NT timeframes for response (BCRIP)

3 - NT response

New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory

The New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory governments have supported all recommendations. The majority of recommendations are either partially implemented, being considered or supported in principle. Only four recommendations are designated Already Implemented (AI) for both jurisdictions, from a total of 24 recommendations.

There is much work to be done in NSW and in the ACT. The ACA believes that clear timing is an important part of this, and it is essential to set clear target dates, particularly in NSW where timeframes are vague.

The ACT government has set a mid 2020 deadline to implement the Improving the ACT Building Regulatory System program; however, it is not clear if this includes all the Shergold Weir report recommendations. The ACT response addresses the issues and recommendations quite specifically and discusses the need for training and assessment at various levels.

NSW timeframes for response (BCRIP)

6 - NSW response timeframes

The NSW government identifies four major areas of reform:

  • Appoint a Building Commissioner as the consolidated building regulator in NSW.
  • Overhaul compliance reporting
  • Require building practitioners with reporting obligations to be registered 
  • Ensure that there is an industry-wide duty of care to homeowners

These reforms target certifiers, fire safety regulation, performance assessment and the issue of certificates, especially for occupation. New laws will require that architects, building designers, engineers and other building practitioners who provide final designs and/or specifications of elements of buildings declare that the plans comply with building regulations, including the BCA. Builders will need to declare that buildings are constructed in accordance with the building plans. These declarations will need to be made by practitioners registered with the Building Commissioner.  

Architects will need to be active in ensuring that the additional services and risks associated with new sign-off, certification and declarations are addressed and articulated in our roles and contracts. Consistency of review and sign-off may be difficult to achieve in procurement contexts that fragment the role of architects, and which require architects to tender separately for different stages. Continuing commissions with one architect provide one way to achieve consistency.

In NSW and the ACT all architects are required to be registered, and in NSW they must undertake CPD as part of annual registration. The ACA – NSW/ACT strongly supports the development of a national registration system for architects and argues that this should proceed quickly and should include mandatory CPD.

It should be noted that, prior to the release of the BCRIP by the Building Ministers Forum, the NSW government issued an 11-page report in February 2019, with the NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation saying that the government is “committed to getting important reforms right”. The report focused on housing and homeowners, rather than the building industry as a whole. The ACA – NSW/ACT supports the move to an industry-wide duty of care to homeowners; however, there is concern that the emphasis on “getting it right” could become excuses to delay implementation.

The ACA – NSW/ACT supports all 24 recommendations made in the Shergold Weir report, and advocates that the whole building sector should be included in reforms – both housing and commercial. It also believes that the categories of registered practitioners should be widened beyond the current recommendations. Under the BCRIP, many roles in the industry will remain outside of control, regulation or responsibility – for example, electricians, strata building managers, real estate agents, clerks of works, construction managers and quantity surveyors. Certifiers are also not named, but may be included in the ‘building surveyors’ or ‘building inspectors’ categories.

We recommend that the BCFIP should advocate for appropriate training to reflect the needs within the construction industry and the regulations. This could flow on to TAFE and higher education providers and their ability to deliver practical education and accreditation protocols for this.

The ACA – NSW/ACT will continue to review the responses from governments in our jurisdictions and will advocate on behalf of our members and the architecture profession. We will reinforce to government that architects have the ability to provide quality outcomes and will advise government on the best pathways to ensure that architects can continue in current roles under the proposed reforms and increase our service offers to ensure a safer, higher quality built environment.

Western Australia

Many of the Shergold Weir recommendations are already wholly or partly in place in Western Australia. The government has identified three further areas of reform, all of which are identified as occurring in the medium to long term. These include a review of the residential building approval process, a review of the commercial building approvals process and a review of registration requirements for the building industry.

WA timeframes for response (BCRIP)

5 - WA response

The ACA – WA supports the recommendations, with some caveats, and will advocate for implementation of these to improve the current system, protect the community and strengthen the position of our profession.

The proposed review of the residential building approval process is supported by the ACA – WA, which argues that the timeframe for this should be brought forward to the short to medium-term. The option “maintaining the status quo” is deemed the least attractive of the three options.

The ACA – WA observes that the review of the commercial building approvals process will be dependent on resourcing.

The development of consistent regulations for registration and ongoing education of all building practitioners is strongly supported by the ACA – WA, which also welcomes the development of consistent CPD requirement across all states and territories. The Architects Board in WA already requires registration of architects and ongoing CPD to maintain registration.

The review may provide the opportunity to mandate the level of involvement provided by particular professions in certain types and classes of buildings. The ACA – WA advocates for the introduction of regulation to limit the scope of work performed by non-architects by reference to classifications or types of buildings. For example, there may be an opportunity to argue that only registered architects should be engaged on commercial projects either over a prescribed monetary value or of a prescribed size and classification.

The ACA – WA will also advocate for processes that limit the fragmentation of the architects services during the course of design documentation and construction.

There may be some difficulties in implementing the recommendations regarding regulatory powers and the effective cooperation between the relevant regulatory bodies. For example, the current Western Australian government audit of ACP cladding has identified buildings where the approval of the ACP external cladding was provided by Local Authority building surveyors via a Local Government Building Permit. The potential ‘conflicting interests’ will need to be resolved with any regulatory powers.

Victoria and Tasmania

The Victorian and Tasmanian governments have both been active in developing responses to the Shergold Weir report. Tasmania is particularly impressive, having already implemented over 54% of the recommendations.

Tasmania timeframes for response (BCRIP)

2 - Tas response timeframes

In comparison, Victoria is significantly behind most of the other states, and the government has implemented only 4 of the 24 recommendations.

  • 9. Establishing minimum statutory controls to mitigate conflicts of interest and increase transparency of engagement and responsibilities of private building surveyors.
  • 14. Setting out what must be included in performance solutions and specifying in occupancy certificates the circumstances in which performance solutions have been used and for what purpose.
  • 15. Providing a transparent and robust process for approving performance solutions for constructed building work
  • 18. Requiring on-site inspections of the works at identified notification stages.

The BCRIP notes that the Victorian government supports one further recommendation and provides in-principle support for the remainder. These include recommendations that are identified as priorities by the BMF. However, Victoria has set no timeframes for implementation. This leaves the architecture profession in a difficult position and active follow-up is required.

The ACA – Vic/Tas supports all 24 recommendations and will work to assist and advocate to government on the vital importance of these. In general, we are concerned by the apparent lack of proper understanding of the National Construction Code, the inadequacy of design documentation and the absence of impartial review by architects and building surveyors. This last issue can occur in procurement contexts where these professionals are employed by builders rather than government or private industry clients.

The Victorian government has concentrated its efforts on the issue of non-compliant cladding as a result of the Lacrosse tower fire in the Docklands. It has set about identifying buildings with non-compliant cladding, it has recommended changes to the regulatory system and is advocating for a national approach to the cladding issue.

The licencing of building practitioners has been partly implemented through the Victorian Building Authority and there are now requirements for the registration of the following categories: building companies, building inspectors, building surveyors, commercial builders, demolishers, domestic builders, person responsible for a building project – project manager (domestic), draftsperson, engineer, erector or supervisor (temporary structures) and quantity surveyors.

Architects continue to be registered with the Architects Registration Board of Victoria under the Architects Registration Act of 1991. The ACA – Vic/Tas supports this system being maintained rather than architects coming under the jurisdiction of the Victorian Building Authority.

Setting clear timeframes for implementation is a priority in Victoria. The ACA – Vic/Tas will contact the relevant ‘Senior Officers Group’ policy officers to further understand how we might assist and understand issues blocking full implementation. As the Shergold Weir Report explains, “The building and construction industry needs to actively participate in lifting standards, competency and integrity if it is to produce safe and reliable buildings and continue to be an important driver of infrastructure development.”