Dodgy deeds for unsafe products rife in building industry

The remains of Grenfell Tower in London. Picture: AFP
The remains of Grenfell Tower in London. Picture: AFP

Key certifiers used to determine whether building products are compliant say they are still being inundated by dodgy certificates for unsafe products, which are being imported into the country from overseas.

Fraudulent documentation was one of the many issues raised at the 2015 Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products, where it was heard that widespread fraud was being used to certify unsafe materials.

The news comes amid growing concern over building safety as NSW is rocked by apartment blocks with severe defects and as combustible aluminium poly­eth­e­lene, which fuelled the rapid spread of flames at London’s Grenfell inferno, has been found wrapping structures across the nation.

Five examples of fraudulent certificates, seen by The Australian, have been used to “certify” products such as scaffolding, plywood and safety glass, but insiders say other materials have fallen victim to dodgy duplicates.

It is understood the five certificates — expiring between 2016 and this year and created for products manufactured in China — were discovered only after building certifiers raised the alarm over concerns the products didn’t comply with national building codes.

Philip Sanders, the executive director of the Australasian Certification Authority for Reinforcing and Struc­tural Steel (ACRS), said semi-regular instances of fraud had seen the company “put a lot of effort” into altering the design of their certificates each year.

He said the issue required constant scrutiny because the problem “still hadn’t gone away” and steel suppliers consequently put a lot of effort into making sure the origin of their products were easily traceable for customers. ­

“Appropriate government regulation as well as proper certification bodies are essential in providing a chain of protection for consumers and industry,” he said.

Mr Sanders said ACRS operated its own traceability scheme and database that enabled consumers to cross-reference their certificates to deliver confidence in its steel materials supply.

John Prasad of Approval Mark said his company’s certificates had been duplicated in China — an issue he faced a couple of times a year. “The worst was a package that arrived in Australia with our licence number and watermark.

“We spoke to the retail outlet selling the product and they went backwards and forwards with the dodgy dealer, saying it breached our trademark. Luckily they understood the seriousness of the problem and removed it.”

Director of CertMark Inter­national John Thorpe said the company was made aware of dodgy certificates “every two to three months … They’re usually referred to us from someone at a building site when a certifier or surveyor will become suspicious over whether a product is conforming. They range from very poor quality to extremely good and are usually photoshopped from genuine companies.”

Brett Mace, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors, said certification of overseas building products was a big issue and called on the government to implement a national register­ for all products. “AIBS members … have raised concerns (over) doubtful certification, most often related to false and misleading statements about compliance with Australian standards.”

AIBS recommends a central national product certification system­ where all technical data related to building products can be published, along with evidence it has been tested and proved to be suitable for Australian standards.

*Labor industry spokesman Brendan O’Connor said despite having been told of the widespread use of dodgy duplicates, the government had not done enough to curb it. Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews was contacted for comment.


REPORTEROlivia Caisley is a federal politics reporter based in the Canberra press gallery. She began her career at The Australian in 2015 working for the digital team before joining the Sydney bureau as a general news





PERHAPS time will tell how best this major issue will be rectified …

ASK yourself do you need somewhere to live?

DO you need these problems? …

Dodgy Certifiers blamed for flammable apartments

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Property

September 24, 2019 | 7 comments

Earlier this month, companies involved in the certification of building products claimed they had been inundated by fraudulent certificates for unsafe building products imported from China:


Key certifiers used to determine whether building products are compliant say they are still being inundated by dodgy certificates for unsafe products, which are being imported into the country from overseas.

Fraudulent documentation was one of the many issues raised at the 2015 Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products, where it was heard that widespread fraud was being used to certify unsafe materials.

New footage of Neo200 building blaze

Photo: The Age: Tower was a boarding house, not apartments, says fire engineer who signed off cladding

Now, The Age reports that the Victorian Building Authority is pursuing dodgy certifiers for wrongly signing off on unsafe flammable buildings, while ignoring their own regulatory oversights:

A fire engineer being pursued by the Andrews government’s building authority over a cladding blaze at a city skyscraper says so many residents were crammed into the tower it was operating more as a boarding house than an apartment block…

Mr Thomas signed off on fire protections for Neo 200 in 2004 ahead of its 2007 completion.

His firm also signed off on Dockland’s Lacrosse tower, where flammable cladding caught fire in 2014, causing millions of dollars in damage. His other work includes signing off on fire safety at Crown Casino…

Victorian Building Authority chief executive Sue Eddy said… “The Neo 200 building was the site of a serious cladding fire”… promising her authority’s investigation would “identify those responsible and hold them to account”…

Mr Thomas has produced documents in court showing the authority assessed the Neo 200 building in 2016 during in an initial audit after the Lacrosse fire. The documents show the authority declared Neo 200 safe to occupy, despite not visiting the site.

Fraudulent certificates. Dodgy certifiers. Phoenixing building companies. Lax regulators. The high-rise scandal runs deep with a multitude of parties at fault, and all furiously attempting to pass the blame.

The only way to truly get to the bottom of this mess is to conduct a ‘warts-and-all’ royal commission into the building industry. This will finger those responsible and help prevent a reoccurrence in the future.

A resident's view of the Neo 200 fire as it climbs the building's facade, fuelled by flammable cladding.

A resident’s view of the Neo 200 fire as it climbs the building’s facade, fuelled by flammable cladding.





‘ … major banks already shunning all but the most reputable developers, non-bank lenders tightening LVRs, and buyers becoming increasingly wary of this segment … ‘

Lenders shun high-rise property developers

By Unconventional Economist in Australian banksAustralian Property

September 24, 2019 |  comments

Loan-to-value ratios (LVRs) employed by Australia’s larger non-bank lenders when advancing funds to property developers have fallen from a high of 72% in 2017 to an average of 65%, according to law firm Ashurst.

Whereas the major banks have also reduced their exposure to residential apartment developers by more than half over the past three years. From The AFR:

The more conservative metrics being deployed by the growing pool of non-bank lenders could assuage potential concerns over the amount of financial risk entering the property sector as the reach of the shadow bankers grows…

The Ashurst analysis shows the big four banks reduced their exposure to residential apartment development by more than half in the past three years, from $5.2 billion at the end of 2016 to $2.3 billion in the middle of this year amid concerns around over-supply and the declining property market.

At the same time, they are also competing more intensively for projects by top-tier developers, allowing higher loan-to-value ratios – up from 56 per cent last year to 61 per cent this year…

Overall the gap in LVRs offered on residential development finance by non-bank lenders and the major banks has narrowed from 9 percentage points last year to 4 percentage points in 2019.

Lending money to ‘run-of-the-mill’ apartment developers is a game of financial Russian Roulette, given the uncertainty surrounding structural faults and flammable cladding.

With the major banks already shunning all but the most reputable developers, non-bank lenders tightening LVRs, and buyers becoming increasingly wary of this segment, a high-rise development bust is on the cards.





Brickworks MD “horrified” by flammable apartments

BRICKS are safer … hehe …

NOT that sub-standard building products are limited to high-rise towers

NOT that deregulation has occurred across the property development industry …

NOT that there is anything preventing the same dodgy operators from moving across to the medium-density housing code of terraces, townhouses, triplex, duplex, Manor Homes, Villas …

IT is only because the low-rise Medium Density Housing Code has been delayed that perhaps some of these dodgy doers will hesitate, and may delay landbanking our suburbs … and outbidding aspiring Australian First Home Buyers …

LET’s hope the apartment bust maintains with 85 per cent or more of apartments defective on completion

THIS should no doubt be a major deterrant!

many apartment owners remain unable to return to their homes in the OPAL TOWER and the MASCOT TOWERS … facing enormous legal fees for rectification …

WHILE developers Phoenix …

Story image for more on afr Brickworks boss says housing already picking up from The Australian Financial Review

Brickworks MD “horrified” by flammable apartments

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Property

September 20, 2019 | 11 comments

Brickworks MD, Lindsay Partridge, says he is “horrified” by poor-quality building products and sub-standard construction practices, and has called for greater regulation and tighter controls. From The AFR:

Mr Partridge said he had personally seen situations of poor building work and materials. “There was a couple of ones that have horrified me”… [and] has put home owners at ”serious risk”.

There needs to be much tighter controls and tougher regulations put in place, he said.

“There’s been an explosion of them in the past 10 years,” he said of the sub-standard building products that had entered the market from rivals.

Australia’s regulatory system had been failing, and there needed to be a much more robust approach with tougher on-site inspections…

“I think they could do with a bit more field experience,” he said of the building inspection regime.

I don’t want to take a shot at Lindsay Partridge, since Brickworks is not behind the sub-standard building products.

However, it is always curious to hear industry representatives lambasting dodgy practices long after the horse has bolted.

Where were the warnings five years ago when the dodgy building bubble was running rampant?

The fact of the matter is that the building industry chose to use materials and construction processes that were inferior, and these passed inspection by dodgy (or incompetent) private building certifiers.

The industry turned a blind eye because it was making mouth-watering profits. It is only now that the chickens have come home to roost that they are playing Monday morning quarterback.

Meanwhile, expect the apartment bust to continue.

Brickworks MD “horrified” by flammable apartments





Defect crisis slams apartment sales

Buyer fears about high-rise apartment fires and construction risks are causing sale times to blow out by more than 60 per cent compared with a year ago

Defect crisis slams apartment sales

By Houses and Holes in Australian Property

September 16, 2019 | 11 comments

Why would anyone buy an apartment today? Via the AFR:

Buyer fears about high-rise apartment fires and construction risks are causing sale times to blow out by more than 60 per cent compared with a year ago, creating bottlenecks for sellers.

Lenders are also making it tougher for borrowers to buy apartments by blacklisting some postcodes, increasing deposits and lowering valuations for off-the-plan purchases.

…“Buyers are telling me they do not want to buy into anything new,” says Patrick Bright, a Sydney-based buyer’s agent. “They do not want to buy into a problem.”

Who can blame them? This is one key reason why we see the apartment bust getting worse despite wider rising property prices and the impact of the latter being very muted for economic activity:

This will see unemployment rise and risk some serious developer shakeouts:

Raising the question: how far can house prices rise without an economy?

Opal Tower

Photo: The Guardian; Opal Tower





The problem is, the more uncertainty around flammable cladding remains, the harder it will be for the overall apartment market to recover … ‘

Flammable cladding buildings kept secret

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Property

September 16, 2019 | 23 comments

The New South Wales Government has instructed councils to keep flammable cladding locations secret in order to thwart potential terrorists from setting these buildings alight, as well as to protect apartment values. From The Guardian:

In NSW, a taskforce has spent two years auditing 185,000 building records to understand how widespread flammable cladding is.

Laws have been introduced requiring the owners of some buildings with external cladding to place themselves on registers accessible to local councils and the state government by February.

Members of the public and the Greens MP David Shoebridge have sought access to those registers through the state’s equivalent of freedom of information laws.

But Guardian Australia has obtained an internal missive sent by the NSW government to local councils last month warning them the cladding information is “highly sensitive” and advising them the release of the documents may be contrary to the public interest.

Councils were advised to “consult” the planning department before making decisions, and were given examples of three common reasons to reject requests: the potential to affect property prices; to derail the taskforce’s work; or to create a risk of “terror” and arson…

Shoebridge, who lodged the City of Ryde request, said there was little doubt the properties identified would take a temporary hit in value.

But he said the release of the documents was critical to improving the response to cladding, and criticised the government for attempting to “gag” councils by raising the prospect of terrorism.

“The state government is making unsupported and exaggerated claims about terrorism and arson threats in a thinly veiled attempt to scare councils away from releasing information about combustible cladding,” Shoebridge said.

“People living in these buildings have a right to know if they’re at risk. Anyone thinking of renting an apartment or buying an apartment also has a right to know and it’s about time the state government understood that.”

For any ‘market’ to function properly, it needs proper disclosure of information. But by using the guise of terrorism, the New South Wales Government thinks it can keep such price sensitive information from being disclosed, thus keeping potential buyers in the dark and preventing apartment values from dropping.

The problem is, the more uncertainty around flammable cladding remains, the harder it will be for the overall apartment market to recover, since all recent high-rise apartments will be perceived to be at risk, rather than only those that are actually covered in such cladding.

It seems the New South Wales Government is more interested in masking the flammable cladding problems than finding actual solutions.

Image may contain: skyscraper and night




NSW new Building Laws to crack down on dodgy builders and put a stop to Phoenixing

IS this ‘Phoenix scams in ashes’ about Beryl’s plans to clean up the mess created by the government? …

Deregulation, planning law changes to suit deve-lopers, rezoning for higher density, exempt and complying development, Certifiers employed by deve-lopers …

WHAT about compliance by deve-lopers and builders complying with the Australian Building Code … even if it doesn’t fit with their profit margins?

As they employ the Architects, Engineers and others …

State’s new building laws to crack down on dodgy builders and put a stop to phoenixing

Dodgy apartment developers who deliberately liquidate their companies to rip-off buyers and contractors are at the centre of tough new laws that will make “phoenixing” not worthwhile and are expected to put some of the worst offenders out of business.

Janet Fife-Yeomans,

September 8, 2019

DAILYTELEGRAPH.COM.AU0:59Shocking revelations uncovered about Opal Tower

Just as almost 100 apartments were deemed safe to be occupied, a whistleblower has revealed explosive footage that again…

Dodgy apartment developers who deliberately liquidate companies to rip-off buyers and contractors are being targeted­ in a state government crackdown.

Planned legal changes which will make “phoenixing” not worthwhile are expected to put some of the worst offenders out of business.

There are also plans to force, for the first time, architects and engineers to comply with the Australian Building Code, which lays down minimum safety requirements.

“If anyone may be in doubt about our government’s intent to get on top of the current crisis­ facing the industry, let there be no misunderstanding,” Better Regulation and Innovation­ Minister Kevin Anderson said.

“The NSW government intends to lead the nation on building reforms and ultimately deliver a framework that is considered among the best in the global construction industry.”

A photo of cracking in what appears to be concrete in the Opal Tower.
A photo of cracking in what appears to be concrete in the Opal Tower.
A photo shows the damage after a broken section of concrete is removed.
A photo shows the damage after a broken section of concrete is removed.

The reforms follow the crisis­ in confidence in the construction industry after the evacuation of the Opal Tower and Mascot Towers over cracking and other defects.

Mr Anderson said it would be the biggest shake-up to the industry in the state’s history “to improve the transparency, accountability and quality of work within the sector”.

The business of “phoenixing” — which strips a company of assets so it cannot be sued if anything goes wrong — is rife in Sydney’s apartment building explosion.

Better Regulation and Innovation­ Minister Kevin Anderson has vowed to turn the industry around.
Better Regulation and Innovation­ Minister Kevin Anderson has vowed to turn the industry around.

The government plans legislation to “disincentivise” it and make the companies wish they had held on to the assets, a source said.

Mr Anderson said it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the building and construction industry”.

“Working in collaboration with everyone that has skin in the game, we can create an environment­ where future generations are confident in the quality of construction, the security of their investments and the prospect of great places to live,” he said.

Visible cracks in the parking lot at Mascot Towers. Picture: Monique Harmer
Visible cracks in the parking lot at Mascot Towers. Picture: Monique Harmer

The reforms come after a government options paper released­ last year, which was designed to stamp out conflicts of interest between building certifiers and developers, went down like a lead balloon with the industry.

Proposals for a cab rank scheme, whereby a certifier would be allocated on a “next in line” basis, and a time limit scheme, requiring certifiers to take a three-year break from a client after a certain period­, were not supported. Local councils said they did not want to be responsible for building certifiers again. Sources said that the public outrage prompted by the Opal and Mascot fiascos had made it easier this time to pull the industry into line.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian­ is said to want the issue sorted by the end of the year, with the legislation to be introduced into parliament in late October or early November­.

Better Regulation and Innovation­ Minister Kevin Anderson has vowed to turn the industry around.





Business man and woman playing wood jenga game blocks in office studio.

Photo: The Fifth Estate

CAAN came across a report published in The Fifth Estate

‘Building crisis: we need an injection of good evidence’

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

CAAN Photo: Some of the Godzillas of Meadowbank

A few things appear to stand out from this interpretation of what is happening in the building industry.

SURE it’s an opinion, and they are entitled to express it, but we believe it is just that!

IS this piece designed to sow the seeds of doubt about other studies?

They are critical in pointing to the lack of evidence provided yet provide little or none themselves …

IS this piece cleverly worded so as to make it ‘defensible’;  in that it is only alerting the community to the lack of data, the lack of definitions, and lack of defining what Standards ought to prevail?

At CAAN we would like to know what the average person would think on reading this piece, would they think it rings a bell, that it’s a bit like hearing from those fellow travelers of the cabal of backroom deniers on climate change?

‘how can it be so when the data is so inconsistent, the science isn’t proven’, and so on

WHAT about reading and referring to what Engineers Australia have said about apartment construction?

‘Engineers Australia Report says NSW has country’s worst building certification system’

Posted 20 Jun 2015

And that ‘the building system in New South Wales has broken down’. 

The warning came in a report compiled by the Engineers Australia multi-disciplinary Committee.  Some of the key findings were that NSW had Australia’s worst building certification system and 85 per cent of strata units were defective on completion.

WHAT about calling it what it is rather than casting doubt on clear and present collapse in confidence but also in the frequency and volume of real defects, not perceptions or something that hasn’t been defined, or sits in some data base?

The problems in apartment construction are significant for a host of reasons, few of these in this piece seem to have received even a mention.

WHAT about mentioning some of the history behind all of the issues, like the wholesale pulling apart of the approvals and inspection system, of the implementation of self- regulation and certification, the importation of building products that aren’t subject to testing … the list goes on!

OR maybe this piece was meant to be superficial, is it just that?

Also could it be a tad arrogant of them?

-tell those with water and mould issues remaining … not rectified!

No photo description available.

CAAN Photo: Permanent water marks on concrete walls of basement carpark; when it rains it is like a waterfall; the floor is patterned with circling cracks throughout and large cracks to the walls of both carpark levels. Lane Cove electorate apartment development

-tell those with stuck doors, unfinished surfaces and shoddy finishes still unrepaired
-tell those with poor drainage and other pumping problems that remain unfixed
-tell all those hundreds of occupants of apartments stuck with owning a lemon that through no fault of their own they now could not sell their most important investment
-tell all those owners who have lost tenants because the apartment they once rented is now uninhabitable owing to major defects
-tell all the owners now faced with massive costs to repair their apartment block … while the developers and construction companies walk away
-tell the hundreds of owners that governments and various regulators have abandoned consumer protections, and have allowed minimal inspection and compliance regimes to prevail despite years of sufficient evidence being provided that clearly showed the system was and is…


To simply pull apart the idea there only maybe a problem, that we lack the definitions, the data, or don’t have a so-called defining Standards to measure the issues against … are these Professors deep in the Egyptian River?

PS …
Would they have views as expressed if they were owners of apartments that failed on any reasonable assessment being of an acceptable standard?

IT’s not about just a few apartments …

-we are literally talking about thousands of apartments in Sydney alone
-we are seeing significant albeit lesser numbers of defective apartments in other capital cities
-the truth is the number of apartments is not even mentioned in the piece by these academics 
-are we talking about thousands of apartments nationally that have been found to be significantly below standard? The answer is likely, ‘most definitely’
-indeed are these defects insignificant? For the most part they seem not, we do have an iceberg here, and whilst the media seize upon stories of woe, luckily for the perpetrators of poor performance the media quickly move onto the next story

Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

CAAN Photo: ‘Ryde Garden’ by Chinese Country Garden; the first O’Farrell Govt High-rise Precinct; an experiment in community consultation with a community panel sworn to secrecy in 2012.

WHERE in the piece did they acknowledge foreign entities have entered Australia’s domestic housing market, and we are now seeing how there is an un-willingness to uphold compliance matters that has led to apartment buildings failing to obtain occupancy certification … and we don’t necessarily have a crisis?

They must be kidding

Above all it is the lack of accountability and consumer protections afforded owners of apartments particularly those in buildings of more than 3 floors … apartment owners in buildings of more than three floors do not have the coverage of Home Owners Warranty Insurance  …

To infer a situation that is costing owners millions of dollars is not necessarily a crisis is:

-a diminishing response from sideline commentators that seem to exploit their apparent positions of authority

-whilst acknowledging there is a problem it seems they are timid when it comes to actually focusing on poor performance, and the failure of those involved to deliver dwellings that don’t fail in so many instances.

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PHOTO: The fire rapidly spread up the side of the Neo200 building. (Supplied: MFB)




Australia’s high-rise faults fuelled by fraud

Image may contain: skyscraper, sky and outdoor

CAAN Photo: Inner West

Companies involved in the certification of building products state that they often come across fraudulent certificates; some duplicated in China; others frequently made aware of dubious certificates!

Australia’s high-rise faults fuelled by fraud

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Property

September 6, 2019 | 6 comments

Companies involved in the certification of building products state that they often come across fraudulent certificates.

John Prasad from Approval Mark says its certificates have been duplicated in China, while John Thorpe from CertMark Inter­national says it is frequently made aware of dubious certificates.

Australian Institute of Building Surveyors CEO Brett Mace says the federal government should implement a national register for all building products. From The Australian:

Key certifiers used to determine whether building products are compliant say they are still being inundated by dodgy certificates for unsafe products, which are being imported into the country from overseas.

Fraudulent documentation was one of the many issues raised at the 2015 Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products, where it was heard that widespread fraud was being used to certify unsafe materials.

The news comes amid growing concern over building safety as NSW is rocked by apartment blocks with severe defects and as combustible aluminium poly­eth­e­lene…

Fraudulent certificates. Dodgy certifiers. Phoenixing building companies.

One can only imagine how deep Australia’s high-rise building crisis runs and how many of the apartments built during the last decade’s unprecedented boom are containing hidden faults:

Australia will be wearing the costs of this mess for decades.

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CAAN Photo: Inner West






Formed in 1922; formation of ACESA

1988 ACESA becomes Australian Standards

2002 SAI Global formed

Find out more:

FOLLOWING on from the Report we shared previously …


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!


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.


‘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.”





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.’


‘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.’


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