The National Construction Code (NCC) and the bit that deals with buildings, the Building Code of Australia (BCA), represents our design and construction bible for technical provisions for buildings (and other structures….).
Published and maintained by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), you can grab a copy here, it is given legal effect by the building regulatory legislation in each State & Territory.
Through a vast set of technical provisions, NCC 2019 allows all buildings in Australia to be design and constructed to minimum performance requirements for safety, health, amenity and sustainability. In other words, this is the absolute legal minimum effort required for building design and construction.
Split into a few parts, Volume 1 focuses on commercial buildings, Volume 2 is primarily concerned with residential while Volume 3 provides requirements for plumbing and drainage.
This performance requirements of this legislative bedrock have remained relatively unchanged since 2010, beyond the odd refinement here and there….but this has all changed.
On the 1st of May 2019, after years of consulting and industry engagement, revised versions of the NCC 2019 series come into effect in all States & Territories except for ACT. The ACT have deferred until September 2019 on the grounds of the potential impact to Industry. As the potential impact of these changes come into focus, and unlike more recent tweaks to the NCC, they mandate that all design teams need to get across the changes and what it means for future project objectives.
At a high level, NCC 2019 has focused on communication and understanding, with a view to enhancing readability while promoting flexibility. Such flexibility takes project teams away from Deemed-to-satisfy requirements with a view that 20 new verification methods provide better design solutions.
Under the hood, we can also see a revised focus on quantification, with approximately 40% of NCC 2019 now numerically defined to reduce the poor application of Performance Solutions that have resulted in non-compliance. The main areas to be quantified are artificial lighting, natural lighting, energy efficiency, and private bushfire shelters.
In terms of energy efficiency, increased stringency in a package of measures aims to create energy consumption reductions by a potential 35% for commercial buildings, with a focus on improved building fabric, better lighting, ventilation, air-conditioning and lifts.
As we begin to unpack the existing, revised or new performance requirements, project teams will begin to ask themselves key questions. Is it more costly to administer and ultimately to build against? Will it prove more onerous to meet the often competing objectives of building envelop design and construction? Will it impact the look and feel of my design, impacting my design direction and philosophy?
It will take time to answer many of these questions, but one truth will be universal, the quicker you get under the NCC hood, the quicker you will understand the impacts.