Anyone involved in the Aus/NZ building industry needs to navigate numerous Australian and New Zealand Standards integrated into the applicable building codes. The AS/NZ Standards underpin compliance, safety, quality and performance; they are the result of thorough technical, scientific and commercial investigations. Their development is managed and coordinated by Standards Australia, an independent, non-government organisation.
Jobsite ANZ asked Kareen Riley-Takos, Standards Australia’s General Manager Operations, about how standards are developed and what the future holds for the industry.
Jobsite: How are Standards developed? What information sources are involved?
Riley-Takos: Standards call on experts from the sector for which the standards are being developed. Overall, we have over 5,000 experts representing the industry, consumers, governments, and the community involved.
Let’s take the construction sector. For a standard on concrete use, we will call on engineers, manufacturers, builders, consumers, regulators and even academics from the field. The key to an effective standard is having it developed by a balanced committee, which brings together all stakeholder groups it may impact. All Standards are also subject to Public Consultation at the draft stage, allowing any interested party to provide their input.
Jobsite: How are Standards different to such things as state government policies?
Riley-Takos: Standards are developed to address a challenge or provide a solution in any given industry. Most are primarily voluntary unless they are called up into regulation or legislation by a government. On the spectrum of regulation, they are only one piece of the puzzle.
Because of the integrity of the process and active participation from regulators on Technical Committees, quite a few are referenced within the National Construction Code (NCC) and other regulations.
Jobsite: How do Australian Standards benefit the building and construction industry?
Riley-Takos: The NCC as the nationwide rulebook for the industry is a performance-based code. Australia Standards play a vital role in the NCC by providing deemed-to-satisfy provisions—like a recipe book for buildings—within the code.
Our commitment to the sector is evidenced in more than 100 standards shaping the NCC. In recognising the NCC as a huge focal point for the sector, we have adjusted to the new three-yearly review cycle for the Code. We wish to make the transition as easy as possible for professionals in the space so that they can get on with their job whenever new or revised Standards are incorporated.
We also add value—in 2015, ACIL Allen estimated our work adds around AU$5.6 billion per annum to the construction industry sector’s GDP every year.
Jobsite: Why do we keep seeing new standards? And why are some Standards revised or changed?
Riley-Takos: Standards are living documents. Their development is as timely as possible, and they are often revised or changed to reflect new technology, innovative research, or a change in community expectations. In saying that, new standards are also developed because so many new sectors are emerging and traditional industries continue growing.
The best example of this change is the work of Standards around blockchain. 10–15 years ago, this technology was barely known. Then, it hit a peak with cryptocurrency wealth. However, it’s only after the hype disappeared, we started to see the true potential of blockchain technology as it reached across a number of different sectors.
Jobsite: Why are some Standards mandatory while others are guidance Standards? How can a builder/tradesperson tell whether a Standard is mandatory or not?
Riley-Takos: We hope the documents we publish make it easier to complete a job, improve safety, or enhance efficiency when undertaking a task or implementing a change. In doing so, some Standards are called up into legislation and are enforced by law. In many cases, it is a result of the strong views in terms of minimum expectations of the community.
For example, in the building sector, there are a number of mandatory standards to guide an acceptable quality across the country. Practitioners are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the applicable regulations, such as the NCC, and check whether they mandate Australian Standards.
Jobsite: Recently, Standards Australia announced a change to the publishing arrangements for Australian Standards, meaning SAI Global will no longer be the sole publisher. Why was this change sought?
Riley-Takos: The announcement regarding the distribution of Standards Australia’s content is the result of a 15-year arrangement expiring. In 2003, one company obtained the exclusive distribution rights for 15 years. This agreement has now come to an end, allowing the distribution of our content to be pursued in ways to enhance the end-user experience.
Jobsite: How might this benefit the construction industry?
Riley-Takos: While the discussion is ongoing in terms of additional distributors, more choice in providers should see an increased competition with market forces shaping the distribution of our content.
Jobsite: How will industry be consulted about new ways to access standards?
Riley-Takos: Consultation for our new distribution model will take some months. This is an incredible opportunity for everyone in each of our sectors to communicate what they want from Standards Australia of the future.
We don’t want this to just be about distribution. We have a chance to shape the way Standards Australia improves Australian life for many years to come, in so many ways.
Jobsite: How can people get involved in the ongoing evolution of Australian Standards?
Riley-Takos: Stay tuned! We will have all sorts of ways to get involved, so be sure to listen out for the most convenient way for you.
Jobsite: Why should industry participants get involved?
Riley-Takos: The impact of Standards Australia goes far deeper than those using our documents. One company using a Standard may impact the entire supply chain through multiple sectors. For this reason, it is important for those with an interest in supporting their industry and helping the Australian community to get involved.