The ASI urges that with many lives at stake from the types of building failures subject of the ABC TV’s 4 Corners program overnight, early and independent verification should be standard practice for all safety-critical building products.

ASI Chief Executive, Tony Dixon said that it is much better to specify to recognised quality benchmarks and provide tools to help ensure compliant outcomes from the beginning to reduce pressure at the end of the building process and deliver better outcomes.

“The current regulatory system confuses who is ultimately responsible. And the existing ‘big stick’ at the end of the process when building certification is enacted is problematic as it is too late and often too costly to address issues properly,” he said.

“Third-party certification of building products and processes to requirements directly linked to the level of risk and complexity of a building under construction is the most appropriate way to ensure risk of building failure is minimised.”

He pointed out that the Australasian Procurement Construction Council’s recent Procurement of Construction Products guide also recommended third-party certification as an apt solution.

“It is not necessary that governments create these tools, but they should encourage and support their development and adoption by ensuring that procurement policy supports third-party certification and auditing of processes to ensure it happens,” Mr Dixon said.

He also suggested that the National Construction Code (NCC) should be configured to promote the concept of risk-based, fit-for-purpose classification of construction products, perhaps utilising a classification scheme such as that adopted in the recently published standard, AS/NZS 5131 covering steelwork fabrication and erection.

“Currently in the NCC, risk is quantified only in relation to certain load types. It should also be quantified on the resistance (product capacity) side of the equation by introducing an apt classification scheme,” he said.

He also cited product certification registers, such as the one recently started up by NATSPEC, as valuable tools along with other reporting schemes, such as an avenue for confidential reporting of building failures to facilitate responsible disclosures as operate in other developed markets.

“At the end of the day, it’s not only more efficient to responsibly supply upfront, but there should be no question that prevention is better than cure when so many lives are at stake.”