Background: how the Building Code works
- All building work in New Zealand must meet the performance standards of the Building Code – this covers aspects such as structural stability, fire safety, access, moisture control, durability, services and facilities, and energy efficiency.
- The legislation and regulations together comprise a framework which governs the building process in New Zealand (the “Building Code Framework”):
Building Code Framework update
- In April 2019, the consultation process commenced for proposals to update the Building Code Framework. These proposed changes may result in the most significant and wide ranging reforms to the Building Code Framework since the enactment of the Building Act in 2004. The key industry areas that will be the focus of these reforms are:
- building products and methods;
- occupational regulation;
- risk and liability;
- building levy; and
- offences, penalties and public notification.
- The proposed changes will infiltrate through all aspects of the Building Code Framework. In particular, we highlight the key proposed changes to the Verification Methods and Acceptable Solutions and the Standards.
- MBIE is implementing a Building Code framework biannual update programme to ensure currency of the Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods and the Standards they reference. This is a response to sector feedback that updates so far have been ad hoc and do not provide clarity and certainty for the sector.
Review of Verification Methods and Acceptable Solutions
- MBIE and Standards NZ are proposing updates to twelve Verification Methods and Acceptable Solutions. The key changes are in the following areas:
- a new Verification Method (E2/VM2) that will enable cladding solutions for buildings up to six storeys in order to support building higher density housing;
- a new light steel frame solution for low-rise buildings to facilitate compliance for housing and small commercial buildings using this framing;
- align Acceptable Solution G4/AS1 for ventilation with Healthy Homes changes requiring extractor fans in moisture prone areas in new house builds to remove reliance on occupants physically opening windows; and
- foundations on Expansive Soils.
Review of Standards
- Further, there are over 400 Standards included as primary references in the Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods or relied on to establish compliance with the Building Code through an alternative pathway. These Standards, created by Standards NZ and developed by technical committees, often in partnership with Standards Australia, contain practical information or guidelines, including ‘how to build’ solutions for Building Code compliance. As part of its wider role to develop and maintain the Building Code, MBIE is reviewing these Standards to ensure they are fit for purpose and kept up to date.
- MBIE and Standards NZ have been working collaboratively to agree on the prioritisation of Standards to be reviewed in the year July 2019 to June 2020. A number of criteria have been considered including an analysis of how critical the Standard is for showing compliance with the Building Code, the overall use by the sector, and if the Standard still sets an appropriate level of performance for New Zealand. This has resulted in a priority list of Standards for review over the next 12 months – the focus being on those Standards that contribute to the densified housing solutions. MBIE will work with Standards NZ and the relevant technical associations to commission and support the review of the following key Standards:
- NZS 3604:2011 Timber-framed buildings (referenced in B1/AS1, B2/AS1 and E2/AS1);
- NZS 4431:1989 Code of practice for earth fill for residential development (referenced in B1/VM1);
- NZS 3404 Parts 1 and 2: 1997 Steel structures (referenced in B1/VM1) or AS 4100 Steel Structures;
- NZS 4211:2008 Specification for performance of windows (referenced in E2/AS1);
- NZS 4510:2008 Fire hydrant systems for buildings (referenced in C/AS2);
- NZS 4303:1990 Ventilation for acceptable indoor air quality (referenced in G4/AS1); and
- NZS 4218:2009 Thermal insulation – Housing and small building envelope (referenced in H1/AS1).
- The overall aim of the updates to these Standards is to help:
- prioritise the development of Standards to inform the bi-annual updates;
- MBIE and Standards New Zealand in their work on the development of joint Australian and New Zealand Standards managed by Standards Australia;
- ensure Standards that are new, amended or reviewed meet the criteria for referencing and are suitable to be included in bi-annual Building Code System updates; and
- evaluate the content and role of secondary referenced Standards to ensure they are necessary and actually support the performance settings in the referencing Standard.