A Guide to the National Construction Code (NCC)

The National Construction Code (NCC) is a three-volume set of regulations signed by the Commonwealth and adopted by the States and Territories in May 2011. It consolidates building and plumbing regulation across the States and Territories, establishing a national minimum standard.

Previously, there was a national standard for building, the Building Code of Australia 1996 (BCA), which did not include plumbing regulation. The NCC incorporated the BCA, with the BCA forming the first two volumes and the newly consolidated Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) forming the third volume.

Overview

Each Sate and Territory is responsible for administering the NCC, and many powers, such as granting permits and licences, have been delegated to local governments or private building certifiers. The code was developed, and is updated and maintained, by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), a part of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and created by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The ABCB previously updated the code every year, but from 2016 it is updated only every three years to ease the burden on the industry. The most recent update is that of 2019.

The NCC contains provisions relating issues such as to structural safety, energy efficiency, fire resistance, access and emergency exits. It is divided as follows:

  • Volume one applies to multi-residential, industrial, commercial, and public (classes 2-9) buildings;
  • Volume two applies to residential (class 1) and non-habitable (class 10) buildings; and
  • Volume three applies to all building classes.

Performance Based

The NCC is a performance-based code rather than a traditional prescribed building code. Prescribed codes may often stifle innovation, therefore performance-based codes were introduced in several countries to allow for greater flexibility. Performance based codes focus on the ends rather than the means and is designed to provide both certainty and flexibility.

This is accomplished by the NCC first putting forward certain ‘performance requirements’ in general terms, such as: ‘a room or space must be of a height that does not unduly interfere with its intended function.’ The NCC then provides two options for ‘performance solutions’ to achieve compliance with the performance requirements: either the prescribed form or an alternative form of the builder’s choice. The former are ‘deemed-to-satisfy’ provisions, which automatically satisfy the performance requirements. For example, the NCC prescribes that ‘ceiling heights must be not less than 2.4 metres in a habitable room’ to achieve automatic compliance with the performance requirement mentioned above. The latter are alternative solutions of the designer’s choice that may, pending approval, comply with the performance requirements.

Assessment Methods

There are several ways to demonstrate to the ABCB that performance requirements have been met:

  • Evidence – by providing a report or certificate from an accredited body.
  • Verification – by using mathematical models or technical tests.
  • Expert Judgment – the opinion of an expert may be used where physical verification methods are unable to be used.
  • Comparison – an alternative method may be found to be similar enough to a ‘deemed-to-satisfy’ solution.

Responsibility

The responsibility of complying with the NCC usually falls on the designers of buildings, such as architects and engineers. In addition, builders and developers bear much of the responsibility, particularly to ensure that only suitable materials are bought and used. Individuals further up the supply chain, such as manufacturers, importers and retailers should also be aware of what materials and products can be used by their customers. They may also be required to comply with certain safety standards before being sold.

If you have any queries regarding any building and construction disputes, please do not hesitate to contact the Warlows Legal construction team.

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