The NSW Government has introduced a new suite of obligations on design and building practitioners. The new obligations are aimed at restoring consumer confidence and ensuring construction is compliant with building standards.

The new obligations are governed by the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (NSW) (Act) and the Design and Building Practitioners Regulations 2021 (NSW) (Regulation). The Act has been in place since June 2020, the Regulation came into effect on 1 July 2021.

From 1 July 2021, some design and building practitioners need to be registered under a new compliance declaration scheme.

What building works are covered?

Regulation 12 provides that the new compliance declaration scheme requirements apply to design and building practitioners undertaking work on class 2 buildings or building works with a class 2 component.

The Building Code of Australia defines class 2 buildings as those containing two or more sole-occupancy units each being a separate dwelling. Examples of class 2 buildings include multi-unit, multi-storey residential apartments, a house with a granny flat on a second story; two single-storey dwellings that are attached and have a common space below.

Note that the new obligations also apply to building works with a class 2 component, for example an apartment building with a carpark or buildings with shops or offices occupying some floors. In these circumstances, the new obligations will apply to work done on all parts of the building, not just the class 2 section of the building.

Building work includes alterations, additions, repairs, renovations and protective treatments. Regulation 13 provides that certain works are excluded from the definition of building works for the purpose of the new obligations.

Who is covered and what are requirements?

Under the new compliance declaration schemes design and building practitioners are required to register in order to declare that their designs and building work are compliant with the Building Code of Australia and any other relevant standards.

Design practitioners are individuals responsible for making design compliance declarations whereas building practitioners are those supervising building work.

Schedule 1 to the Regulation provides that design practitioners can register under a number of classes, including:

  • Drainage
  • Architectural
  • Building design (low and medium rise)
  • Engineering (including electrical, geotechnical, mechanical, structural and civil)
  • Fire systems (including fire sprinkler, fire hydrant, fire hose reel, mechanical smoke control, detection and alarm systems)

If you fall within the above categories of workers and meet the eligibility requirement, which includes at least five years’ experience and responsibility for signing off on design compliance then you need to be registered. If you are not eligible to register you need to work under the supervision of a registered practitioner.

Similarly, if you are a building practitioner undertaking, supervising or coordinating building work, you must be registered to make a declaration as to the compliance of the completed works. A developer will not be able to apply for occupation certificate until a declaration is lodged by a registered building practitioner.

Only the principal building practitioner or contractor needs to be registered for the purpose of a compliance declaration not every subcontractor and tradesperson.

There are also additional obligations on building practitioners to lodge documents prior to, during and on completion of works. For example, Regulation 26 provides that within 90 days of an occupation certificate being issued, you must confirm that no variations have been made to the regulated designs or lodge a new regulated design plan detailing any variations.

Written by Malik Anne.

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