Changes to the Building Act: The Building (Building Products and Methods, Modular Components, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill
The Building (Building Products and Methods, Modular Components, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill (Bill) was introduced to the House on 8 May 2020. This Bill contains the proposed changes to the Building Act 2004 (Act) developed as part of the Construction Sector Accord and aim to provide a more effective and efficient construction sector whilst also improving the quality of building work and trust and confidence in the building regulatory system.
The Bill also seeks to make the Act applicable to modern construction methods, such as off-site manufacturing and prefabrication, and so allow for greater use of these new methods within New Zealand within an appropriate regulatory framework enabling these methods to be used and developed with confidence by the industry. These methods have the ability to deliver innovative and cheaper buildings. The current consenting process which is based on traditional construction methods can be seen to present barriers and delays to the use of these new methods and so steps to address this will be welcome news to those wishing to make use of and develop these methods.
The key changes which the Bill covers are to:
- Provide better information and clear responsibilities for building products by requiring manufacturers and suppliers to make a minimum level of information publicly available regarding the building products that they sell. There will be a duty on manufacturers and suppliers to ensure product information is not false or misleading and provide evidence to substantiate product claims. Currently there is no requirement for information to be provided about products leading to consenting Authorities having to raise queries regarding their use during the consenting process. This will assist in selecting the correct products for the proposed use and should also lead to more efficient consenting as the consenting Authorities will have the information they require so as to assess compliance with the Building Code. As a result there should be fewer delays during the consenting process which will reduce time and cost for building owners. The information that will be required will be the subject of later regulations but is anticipated to include a description of the product, details of the supplier, information on the scope and limitations of use of the product, design, installation and maintenance requirements and a declaration as to whether the product is subject to a warning or a ban.
- Strengthen the CodeMark scheme to prevent the registration of unsuitable products by certification bodies and provide greater product assurance. Currently MBIE does not have any power under the Act to set scheme rules for CodeMark or intervene if rules are not met. The amendments seek to give MBIE greater oversight of the scheme, the right to set compliance rules and the ability to suspend or revoke a body’s ability to certify products if they do not comply with these rules. There will also be a registration requirement for certification bodies. These changes will provide greater confidence in the CodeMark scheme for both building owners and consenting Authorities.
- Provide a new voluntary manufacturer certification scheme for modern methods of construction. This will allow manufacturers of off-site prefabricated and modular buildings to achieve certification and demonstrate compliance with the Building Code enabling manufacturers to produce consistent products which can confidently be seen as being safe and reliable. The certification process will involve an assessment of the whole process for the use of off-site materials from design and manufacture right through to transportation and delivery on to site. There have been concerns regarding the quality of and consenting process for off-site fabrication and this scheme aims to address these concerns and will have many benefits including providing a shorter and more efficient consenting process for certified manufacturers, saving time and money (without compromising quality) due to reducing duplications and delays, allowing consenting Authorities to focus on on-site compliance and providing assurance to building owners of the quality of construction. This should lead to wider use of off-site products in the building industry which could lead to quicker and cheaper construction.
- Create new offences and penalties in relation to breaches of the minimum information requirements and certification of off-site products set out above. There are also increased penalties for existing offences under the Act with a higher rate of penalties being set for companies as opposed to individuals. There will also be an extension to the period to file charges from 6 to 12 months. These changes aim to provide greater protection for building users and deter sub-standard work and poor practices within the industry. The key to achieving this will be the appetite of the respective Authorities to enforce these penalties.
- Increasing the scope for using the Building Levy which will enable MBIE to spend levy funds on activities relating to the broader oversight of the industry.
The Bill will now have its first reading in Parliament before the Select Committee process begins. Submissions are invited on the proposed amendments. These are the most comprehensive changes to building legislation for some time and will affect all within the industry. We are able to assist if you would like to make a submission or require any further information on the proposed amendments and how they may impact you and your business.
Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.