UPDATE ON AUSTRALIAN CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS

SAI GLOBAL … About

Formed in 1922; formation of ACESA

1988 ACESA becomes Australian Standards

2002 SAI Global formed

Find out more:

https://www.saiglobal.com/en-au/about_sai_global/our_business/company_overview/

FOLLOWING on from the Report we shared previously …

BARING PRIVATE EQUITY ASIA Finally Grabs SAI GLOBAL to Own ‘AUSTRALIAN STANDARDS’!

DECEMBER 27, 2018 / CAA4NSW 

WITH the Baring Private Equity Asia grab of SAI Global the “Australian Public” including Trades lost free acccess to Australian Standards at 9 Libraries;  access was previously free prior to midway 2016!

AND WHY CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS SHOULD BE FREE!

EXTRACT from ‘Why construction standards need to be free’

‘For years, experts have said that cost and lack of access to the hundreds of standards contained in Australia’s National Construction Code has been a problem.

Many of those standards refer to many other standards, and each one costs hundreds of dollars to access, says executive director of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) James Cameron. …

For example, the Design for Access and Mobility (AS1428) set of standards is referenced by the NCC but is also widely referenced by the wider community. But it costs $628, far beyond the reach of someone wanting to ensure their premises provide compliant access to people with a disability,” said Mr Cameron.

Small- and medium-sized companies are particularly disadvantaged. Some industry associations, such as ACIF member Master Electricians Australia, license key standards to provide them to their members.  But many tradespeople and professionals working for small- and medium-sized businesses don’t access all of the referenced standards because of the cumulative cost’, he said.

PREFERABLY THEY WOULD BE FREE!

‘When the National Construction Code was made free, he said, the take up increased ten-fold.

“This is a win for practitioners in the industry, and the well-being of the Australian public.”

THE MONOPOLY HELD BY SAI GLOBAL ON PUBLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF AUSTRALIAN STANDARDS ENDED EARLIER IN 2019

IN MAY 2019 STANDARDS AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCED A NEW DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT WITH DIGITAL FIRM TECHSTREET.

USERS WILL BE ABLE TO ACCESS THROUGH A WEBSTORE AND SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE TO TECHSTREET ENTERPRISE, THEIR STANDARDS MANAGEMENT PLATFORM

IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN WHETHER THEY WILL BE MORE AFFORDABLE

Jeroen Prinsen, VP and head of Australasia and South East Asia for Clarivate Analytics, which owns Techstreet, declined to name a ballpark price for the products. But he said customers would be able to purchase single standard documents and that there would be discounts on the retail price for large-volume orders.’

THE CASE FOR PROVIDING ACCESS TO STANDARDS AT THE LOWEST COST POSSIBLE IS CLEAR: IT WILL IMPROVE COMPLIANCE

‘For example, members of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) can access the 250-odd standards most relevant for project design as part of their membership subscription to the organisation.

However, for smaller studios or solo architects, the cost of AIA membership and of purchasing access to standards is prohibitive … ‘ …

Fundamentally, having to pay to access mandatory standards is like being given a driver’s licence but having to pay to access the details of each road rule

The government should not be forcing people to pay to get access to the law, said Mr Mihaly.

An industry source in the construction space reiterated the barrier posed by the high price of standards for many small builders, trades and consultants.

Many people in the industry say the ideal situation would be to make the standards freely available but don’t feel confident it will happen any time soon.

Instead, we could see a marketplace where the various standards distributors still keep the cost of individual standards high to maintain their bottom-line.

Some sectors of the industry have been lobbying for Standards Australia to maintain a centralised hub for purchasing of standards and for dealing with user complaints and other issues, which is supplier neutral, the source said.

They would also like to see Standards Australia establish a process for dealing with matters around distributor pricing and changes to pricing, as well as fail-safes to prevent distributors from carving up or dominating the market.

Expensive standards are also a problem for consumers, according to another industry source.

“Consider the legal liability around purchasing a strata apartment for example. A consumer is legally expected to have done due diligence ahead of purchase, which includes accessing any relevant and available standards.

“With literally hundreds of standards applicable to a typical building construction, how can a purchaser possibly afford to check? Yet if they don’t check … [a later] dispute may not be resolved in their favour.”

Standards Australia has said it will submit feedback from its consultation process around standards distribution to its members and councillors in November, and is aiming to implement them in January, next year.’

Comments

7 Responses to “Why construction standards need to be free”

  • Cheralynne Morrison-Evans says:6 September 2019 at 2:22 pmA fantastic article of significant importance! How on earth can you expect builders, tradies, designers to be compliant when they don’t know the information (as things often change over time) and also don’t have access to finding any answers. The cost of the standards is an absolute disgrace and how on earth did SAI Global end up with all of the control.
    This needs to change and change soon.
    keep up with the push for change.
    Cheers, ChezReply
  • Simon says:6 September 2019 at 12:28 pmI tried to access relevant Australia standards to undertake some work on safe engineering practices in regard to rigging for a community theatre group and discovered how aggressively standards access has been removed from the public by SAI Global. At the time I enquired even the NSW state library had lost their access to the standards. They were once available in hard copy in public and TAFE / University libraries. These have all been removed. SAI Global said the account was being abused at the state library and it was closed.The only way I found to in theory being able to read the relevant standards was ordering hard copies from the national library which would be delivered to my local library physically. Then I could read them for a short time in the library and then they would be sent back to Canberra.Physically sending printed documents from Canberra – in 2019…I gave up in the end… It just became too difficult. I would have needed to refer back to the standards to complete the work – and I was not prepared to get the documents couriered from Canberra every time I need to check a clause…The purchase costs are ridiculously high (and 90% of this has historically gone to SAI global – only 10% has gone to Standards Australia) and the wealth of wisdom in the standards is effectively lost to the community as a whole. It would have cost thousands to buy the standards required and was out of the question for me or the community group in question to afford them.I was talking to a friend who had a long career in the law and he said it may be unconstitutional to remove public access to standards as if they are by referenced as obligatory by statute effectively forming part of a law then it is a basic tenet of law that you must be able to read it to comply with it – You cannot be charged for this.Of course to test this would likely take a fair bit of legal outlay… And fighting an aggressive private equity firm who ultimately hold the copyright of Australian Standards … How did we get here?But there is no doubt in my mind restricting access to the wisdom embodied in standards is a poor outcome for all of us. I really think they should be considered a public good. With committees funded by govt and publicly published. What value does a publishing firm add in the age of technically trivial online distribution? Why does the publishing firm receive almost all the monies for having some documents on a web server? I would be interested to see the split in the new agreement.Their employment across all spheres of human life could bring many, many benefits in so many ways.Reply
  • Steven Horn says:6 September 2019 at 11:57 amAs a building designer I get tradies asking what to do with certain issues. I try to put the codes on the plans for most things like access for the disabled or other problems like waterproofing, Fire prevention anything in relation to the building. I can’t afford to have all the codes, so I can’t show everything. I don’t know any tradie with a code book, some may have the AS. 1684 or even the old Tradac book the older guys. If they were free or even $10 a lot more guys or girls would have them with codes being updated from time to time we can’t be buying the updated codes either. The BCA is free online why not the codes it talks about. Thanks for the article well done. SteveReply
  • Liz G says:6 September 2019 at 11:44 amFrom designing my residence and driveway, to Quality Control onsite … I’ve had no end of trouble finding the standards. Only a few libraries have access to them. The draftsman, and tradies, had little familiarity. The apprentices were clueless. Of course the standards should all be free, and easily accessible online. Including forecast changes. (One standard changed after my build was underway; luckiky it was certufied just before the change occurred.) The forecast change should have been known at the detailing of specs, and signing of the contract. The cost increase could have been significant.Reply
  • Daniel Wurm says:6 September 2019 at 10:26 amYes! I would estimate that less than 5% of tradies have access to the standards relevant to their trade. No wonder there is a complete lack of knowledge of building standards, and our buildings are falling apart!Reply
  • Lynda says:6 September 2019 at 9:21 amThank you for this thoughtful and timely article. I have long believed that all Australian Standards should be free and that the taxpayer revenue benefit of selling standards is annulled by the fact that taxpayers have to pay for the standards – so it’s a case of cutting off the bottom of the blanket and sewing it on the top. Where I work in Local Government we have to pay for many Australian Standards and ratepayers ultimately pay for these. Or worse, we try to do without them and assume we know what we’re doing.Reply
  • Michael Mobbs says:6 September 2019 at 5:50 amTerrific article; thank you.A citizen is presumed to know the law.But if the citizen must pay high fees to buy a copy of the law at an unaffordable price then non-compliance with the law is encouraged.To give a monopoly over the sale of the law is to create an environment ripe for market abuse; and so that’s what’s happened with construction laws.Thank you again for this, Michael

SOURCE: https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/innovation/building-construction/why-construction-standards-need-to-be-free/?utm_source=The+Fifth+Estate+-+newsletter&utm_campaign=f6cbd24f29-1+november+2018_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5009254e4c-f6cbd24f29-44064757&ct=t(EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_1_COPY_01)&mc_cid=f6cbd24f29&mc_eid=a9cd38b621