Major changes ahead for building laws - Viranda Holdings LTD

The government has announced its first set of decisions on the proposed building reforms and once the changes are embedded, New Zealanders could experience savings of up to $150 million over the next decade from fewer delays and less repairs to substandard work.

One of the major changes is a new certification process for modern methods of construction. This will allow manufacturers (with good systems) to sign-off their own designs and construction, meaning only one consent is required and potentially halving the number of inspections needed.

Another important change is requiring information about building products to be made publicly available. Including a plain English description and information about how a product should be installed and maintained. This will help designers and builders to choose the right products and allow councils to approve consents faster. It is expected this would reduce the number of inspection failures, saving up to $1.5 million a year.

Government is also looking at strengthening the existing product certification scheme, CodeMark, by improving the quality of product evaluations and certificates. Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would have the ability to investigate, suspend or revoke registrations where appropriate.

This will build confidence in the scheme, make consenting more efficient, and lead to safer and more durable building work.

Final changes include lowering the building levy and increasing financial penalties for offenses.

Our thoughts? Viranda’s Facilities Manager, Richard Hall, works with the Building Act on a daily basis. He believes this is a positive step that’s been required for some time.

“The responsibility has been falling too heavily on the installer to ensure an item meets building code requirements and NZ standards, which has led to situations like the Lyon Electrical cabling recall. This Auckland based electrical contractor had unwittingly imported and installed poor quality cabling from overseas into 19 Auckland buildings. No external testing or certification had been required, yet within five years the cable could easily become brittle and burst into fire. Remedial works have cost construction companies up to $12 million.” Richard explains.

When delivering projects for our clients, Viranda works with manufacturers and suppliers that have robust systems in place to ensure materials comply. A further step we take is confirming the materials onsite and being installed are exactly what has been specified.

It also becomes very important when assessing tenders that we compare similar items accurately. For example, someone may be using a similar item that is much cheaper, but unbeknown to the contractor, is poorer quality, or even unsuitable. For us, this can lead to longer times to prepare, review and assess tenders, and higher costs for contractors (and in turn the customer). But the peace of mind is worth it in the long run – financially and emotionally.

These reforms will give landlords and contractors more confidence that if something is being sold as ‘meeting NZ standards,’ it genuinely will be.

Overall, we should see less risk and costly issues from substandard building materials – which will lift the quality of construction across the country.