Strict new rules to prevent building defects in the ACT

Developers will be required to submit more detailed design documentation to secure building approvals, under rules aimed at preventing structural flaws occurring in new developments across Canberra.

The ACT government on Wednesday released the strict new guidelines as part of the continued roll out of its long-awaited building quality reforms.

It came as the opposition called on the government to review resourcing at its planning directorate, following the controversy surrounding the now-overturned decision to delay the adoption of new national construction standards.

Minister for Building Quality Improvement Gordon Ramsay, who has released new guidelines for design documentation. Picture: Karleen Minney

Minister for Building Quality Improvement Gordon Ramsay, who has released new guidelines for design documentation. Picture: Karleen Minney

The guidelines set out the minimum amount of information which land owners and practitioners would be required to include in applications for building approvals.

The approvals are designed to verify that proposed construction work will result in a development which is compliant with building laws.

Applicants will be required to submit a project summary, detailed drawings, site plans and maintenance requirements to a building certifier for approval.

The documents will be lodged with the Construction Occupations Registrar, who has the power to sanction builders and contractors for non-compliant work.

A report outlining the guidelines stated that "well-detailed plans" could help reduce the risk of defects arising in buildings and, in turn, the likelihood of disputes between owners and builders.

[It will mean] the owner will have a firm understanding of what they have engaged the builder to deliver.

ACT government

"[Detailed plans will mean] the owner will have a firm understanding of what they have engaged the builder to deliver, and the builder and the other practitioners will be better placed to price the work accurately and deliver a compliant building," the guidelines stated.

The guidelines apply to applications for all new or "substantially altered" apartment or commercial developments.

Industry groups and practitioners will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the guidelines before they are legislated next month. The new guidelines will come into force from September 1.

The introduction of strict documentation guidelines is one of 43 building regulation reforms being implemented by the ACT government.

The roll-out is more than a year behind schedule, but the government has committed to delivering the full suite of reforms before the October 2020 election.

Minister for Building Quality Improvement Gordon Ramsay said the government had also started consultation on a new code of practice for builders and certifiers.

The move comes a week after Mr Ramsay overturned his decision to delay the adoption of the new national construction code until September 1.

The backflip came after ACT chief planner Ben Ponton conceded that his directorate had not consulted with key stakeholders before advising Mr Ramsay that industry needed extra time to adjust to the changes.

In the ACT Assembly on Wednesday, opposition planning spokesman Mark Parton called on the government to review resourcing at the planning directorate to ensure it was capable of properly consulting with stakeholders.