Gaps in Building Act changes

Following on from last year’s round of consultation, the Government in May 2020 introduced its proposed changes to the Building Act.

The Building (Building Products and Methods, Modular Components and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, now before the Environment Select Committee, sets out a programme of reforms to lift the efficiency and quality of building work, and provide fairer outcomes if things go wrong.

Key changes in the Bill will:

  • introduce a mandatory framework of minimum information requirements about building products to support better and more efficient decision-making;
  • introduce a specialist framework for modern methods of construction such as offsite manufacturing and prefabrication and speed up the consenting process;
  • strengthen the product certification framework (CodeMark) to improve trust and confidence in the scheme.

Metals New Zealand supports the intent of the Bill, in particular the proposals to require minimum product information to be provided  – and that this must be mandatory not voluntary.

However, the Bill fails to address the issues of product substitution.  Robust processes and requirements need to be developed for product substitution to ensure building performance and code compliance is not compromised. This is particularly relevant when being applied to buildings using the modern methods of construction.

Metals New Zealand is also very concerned that the proposed clauses in the Bill could inadvertently create a repeat of weathertightness failures. One of the reasons for the poor uptake of MBIE’s Multi Proof Consent is the high variability of challenging site and climatic conditions across New Zealand. In the absence of robust sector consultation, existing risks have not been comprehensively identified.

Further, the Bill does not touch on the greatest single risk in modern methods of construction – that the overseas manufacture of modular components fail, because either product incorporated in the modules are not certified by a PCB  and/or that the modular components have not been designed to meet New Zealand seismic or climatic conditions.

New Zealand has experienced systemic failure of imported façade systems, which leak.

Already we have kitset homes coming into New Zealand with similar building materials and systems to New Zealand, (e.g. like Australia), which fail to meet New Zealand’s seismic design requirements. Are these not systemic risks which the Bill should ensure are not repeated in the future?

Among our many concerns around the proposal to introduce a ‘specialist framework for modern methods of construction‘ is that it provides for a voluntary certification scheme, based on a conformity model. Such a model underpinned the weathertightness failures that we are still addressing today.

This approach is too optimistic and needs further work to ensure that building quality is not compromised.

This includes requiring all products embodied in all modular buildings, (manufactured in New Zealand or offshore) to comply with the same product information and certification requirements as for conventional residential construction in New Zealand.

Metals New Zealand has outlined these and other concerns in our submission to the Environment Select Committee which you can view here

Metals New Zealand submission to Select Committee on Building Amendment Bill FINAL