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ABCB reviews construction standards

30 April, 2014

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released a discussion paper to advise and seek feedback on the resilience of new buildings to extreme weather events.

The feedback will help inform the ABCB on strategic advice it provides to governments in identifying future areas to focus its activities.

The ABCB Chair, John Thwaites, commented: "New buildings are designed and constructed in accordance with the National Construction Code to withstand climate related hazards such as cyclones and extreme winds, intense rain, bushfire, snow and flood, as appropriate to their location.

"However, over the past few years extreme weather events have resulted in devastating winds, floods and bushfires in many parts of Australia, which have led to the destruction and damage of a number of buildings. It is appropriate to take stock and determine whether new buildings are sufficiently resilient to natural disasters associated with extreme weather events.

"The ABCB constantly reviews the National Construction Code, particularly after major hazard events and via research, to investigate whether adequate levels of safety and health are maintained for the community. Where the building standards have proven to be inadequate they have been upgraded. The discussion paper is consistent with an on-going process of monitoring."

The ABCB has the responsibility on behalf of the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to develop and maintain the National Construction Code. The code contains the technical building and plumbing standards for the design and construction of all new buildings and plumbing systems in Australia.

The code does not currently cover standards for all types of extreme weather events, such as heat, hail or storm tide, as it is not necessarily practical to do so, and nor does it apply to existing buildings other than where new building works are involved, the test for which may vary from state to state.

The ABCB General Manager, Neil Savery said "it is appropriate for the ABCB to seek feedback and consider whether other hazards ought to be addressed in the National Construction Code. However any change to the code needs to be carefully researched, satisfy stringent impact assessment requirements and be subject to further public consideration."

"While there have been a number of calls to make buildings stronger and more durable, buildings need to be appropriately located and a sensible balance struck given that the increased cost of making them more resilient needs to be balanced against the ability of the community to pay.

"Building affordability is an extremely important consideration and it is difficult to make buildings completely resistant to extreme weather events, with all of their unpredictable features including if the building is poorly located or not, and well maintained for the environment in which it exists."

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