The new edition of the National Construction Code will soon be published . Although most of the provisions of the new edition won’t come into effect until May 2023, those with an interest in the construction sector should begin to prepare and consider how these changes may affect them.
A new edition of the National Construction Code (“NCC”) is set to be published on 1 October 2022 (“NCC 2022”). The majority of NCC 2022 provisions will come into effect from 1 May 2023; however, there are some transitional periods which we touch on below.
The current edition of the NCC is the 2019 (Amendment 1) edition, which was adopted by the States and Territories on 1 July 2019 (“NCC 2019”). With the adoption of NCC 2022 approaching, practitioners, industry professionals, and those interested in the construction sector should prepare for its adoption.
What is the National Construction Code?
The National Construction Code (“NCC”) creates a national framework which establishes technical design and construction provisions for buildings. The NCC is published by the Australian Building Codes Board (“ABCB”) on behalf of the Australian Government. The NCC adopts a performance based model to design and construction through the establishment of minimum standards of safety, health, amenity, accessibility and sustainability in relation to certain buildings.
The NCC’s origins can be traced back to the first edition of the BCA which was published in 1988. The 1988 publication was seen as an “important step towards the achievement of uniform building regulations throughout Australia”.
In its current form, the NCC has been published as three volumes since 2011 and comprises the Building Code of Australia, as Volumes One and Two (“BCA”), and the Plumbing Code of Australia, as Volume Three (“PCA”).
Changes to the National Construction Code.
NCC 2022 is currently available for preview through the ABCB website, with final publication set to occur on 1 October 2022. While NCC 2022 is largely finalised and ready for publication, the ABCB will make available for preview its new energy efficiency and condensation requirements on 1 September 2022.
We set out below a few changes of interest contained in NCC 2022.
NCC 2019, and earlier editions, were often regarded as daunting by reason of their complex and sometimes inconsistent layout and structure – NCC 2022 seeks to change this by introducing a new structure and reference schema to enhance consistency across all volumes.
NCC 2022’s new clause reference system is called Section-Part-Type-Clause. An explanation of the new system is located in NCC 2022’s Preface. As a brief observation, the new system allows for a quicker and easier identification and understanding of the purpose of each clause.
Veterans of the NCC will be pleased to know that each clause in NCC 2022 contains a handy reference back to the equivalent NCC 2019 clauses. This inclusion also identifies clauses which are new to NCC 2022.
Introduction of the Livable Housing Design
To accompany NCC 2022, the ABCB will publish its Housing Provisions Standard to promote accessible housing design practices. This Standard sits alongside a new Performance Requirement, “Livable Housing design”. The Objective of this Requirement is to ensure “housing is designed to meet the needs of the community, including older people and those with a mobility-related disability”.
The ABCB has described the Standard as representing a “significant step-change to how we’ve traditionally designed housing in Australia”.
Livable Housing design applies to Class 1a buildings (single dwellings) and Class 2 buildings (sole-occupancy units). If this Performance Requirement is to be achieved through a Deemed-to-Satisfy Solution, compliance with the requirement can be satisfied through the Housing Provisions Standard.
Livable Housing design introduces essential requirements for a Class 1a and Class 2 buildings. In broad terms, these classes of buildings must have:
at least one level and step-free entrance door into the dwelling (and Class 1a buildings must also have a continuous and step-free path to an entry door);
internal doors and corridors on the ground or entrance level which facilitate unimpeded movement between spaces;
a sanitary compartment located on the ground floor that facilitates independent access and use;
a shower that facilitates independent access and use; and
construction that facilitates the future installation of grabrails in sanitary compartments, shower and bath areas in a way that minimises removal of existing wall linings.
Early childhood centres
Early childhood centres are a Class 9b building. NCC 2022 introduces new requirements for these centres, with many of these changes being orientated to aid in the evacuation of children from centres located above the ground floor.
An interesting but important change is to handrails. In NCC 2022, handrails located in early childhood centres must provide, in addition to an ordinary adult handrail, a handrail suitable for a child’s grip which is at a suitable child height.
A notable change is to the “10% Rule”. In NCC 2019, there was an exemption to the determination of a building classification such that if a minor part of a storey (constituting less than 10% of that storey) was used for a different purpose than the remainder of that storey, the classification of the major part would apply to the minor part. For example, if an early childhood centre constituted only 8% of a storey, and the remainder of that storey was a Class 5 office, then the entire storey could be classed as Class 5.
In NCC 2022, a limitation to the 10% Rule exemption is introduced in that it no longer applies where the minor use is a Class 9b early childhood centre. The explanation to this change is to ensure that Class 9b early childhood centres are designed and constructed in accordance with the applicable requirements.
Expanded application of the “Construction in bushfire prone areas” requirements
In NCC 2019, the Performance Requirement of bushfire resistance applied only to three classes of buildings, when those buildings were located in a designated bushfire prone area.
In NCC 2022, the application of this Performance Requirement has been expanded to now apply to five classes of building (subject to certain criteria), when those buildings are located in a designated bushfire prone area.
The expanded application of this Performance Requirement is intended to better protect vulnerable occupants, such as those in health-care, residential care, or early childhood centre buildings.
Adopting NCC 2022 – When will the changes occur?
To create a unified code across Australia, States and Territories must adopt the NCC for it to be given legislative effect in their jurisdiction. This adoption process allows the States and Territories to amend the NCC if they so require.
NCC 2022 will be published on 1 October 2022 through the ABCB website. To allow the industry to learn and adjust to the changes, particularly in light of pressures faced by the industry in recent times, Building Ministers have agreed that NCC 2022 will commence from 1 May 2023. There will be transitional periods, wherein before certain dates, some parts of NCC 2022 will only be considered voluntary. These provisions relate to:
the Livable Housing Requirements, new energy efficiency and condensation mitigation requirements, which will be considered voluntary until 1 October 2023; and
new low lead in plumbing product requirements, which will be considered voluntary until 1 September 2025.
Cowell Clarke will continue to keep its clients updated on these developments.
Review of the NCC occurs on a three year cycle, and so we can expect that following adoption of NCC 2022, the next review of the NCC will occur sometime in 2025.
Cowell Clarke has significant experience in Building, Construction & Infrastructure, ranging from pre-contract negotiation through the dispute resolution and complex litigation. If you would like to discuss how we can help you, please contact us and a member of our team will be in touch.
 A Deemed-to-Satisfy Solution is a method of satisfying a Deemed-to-Satisfy Provision. Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions are provisions which are deemed to satisfy a Performance Requirement. In other words, a Deemed-to-Satisfy Solution is a mechanism by which, if followed, a Performance Requirement can be achieved.
This publication has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional legal advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional legal advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication and to the extent permitted by law, Cowell Clarke does not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting or refraining to act in relation on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.