Are you familiar with all the terms used in the current 2019 version of the National Construction Code? According to construction regulators, not everyone is. That is why a new on-line reference has been created to help industry participants and the general public decipher and apply the thousands of technical terms unique to construction.
Australia’s National Construction Code (NCC) references hundreds of AS/NZ and ISO Standards. It contains a vast array of technical terms and is regularly updated to reflect new technologies and methodologies.
“It aims to assist industry, government and consumers to understand the range of terminology used to describe the same or similar terms and processes across Australia.”
This already makes it quite complicated. Add the variations between states and territories to the mix, and ensuring compliance becomes a major challenge. The new on-line National Dictionary of Building and Plumbing Terms developed by Standards Australia in partnership with the Australian Building Codes Board and industry stakeholders aims to ensure everyone in the industry is on the same page, wherever they might be working.
The dictionary combines terms and definitions from the NCC, Australian (and joint AS/NZS) Standards, and Handbook 50-2004 Glossary of Building Terms.
“It aims to assist industry, government and consumers to understand the range of terminology used to describe the same or similar terms and processes across Australia,” Standards Australia General Manager Strategy and Engagement Adam Stingemore said.
It is an evolving resource, and there are plans to expand it further to include relevant terminology used in state and territory-specific building code legislation.
Consistent Language Supports Consistent Compliance
Variations in terms used in different states and territories were identified in the 2018 Building Confidence Report (BCR) as an issue.
Standards Australia noted that different terminology can make it confusing for industry and consumers to understand exactly what is needed.
“Consistency in the use of language can help promote a national approach to the application of building codes, standards and regulations. It enhances comparative reporting, facilitates the sharing of good practice and assists those in the building and construction industry,” Stingemore said.
The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors is one of the industry stakeholders that has been involved in the dictionary’s development.
The AIBS policy, Building Regulatory Reform in Australia, highlights the value of national consistency as a key element in improving construction quality and compliance.
“Currently in Australia there is a National Construction Code (NCC) with variations, which is legislated in no less than eleven different ways by the eight States and Territories”, the Commonwealth and Commonwealth Departments of Defence and Federal Airports,” the policy states.
A spokesperson for AIBS said the organisation supports the dictionary as “an important step in the long journey toward jurisdictional harmonisation of building regulation in Australia.”
“This dictionary, together with increasing momentum around implementation of the recommendations in the BCR report, will hopefully support our calls for nationally uniform regulation of the building industry,” they added.
What You Are Building Might Depend on Where You Are
Variations between state-based codes include some crucial definitions. For example, only the NSW version of the NCC specifically defines an auditorium as “part of an entertainment venue used or intended to be used for the purposes of accommodating an audience to an entertainment.”
Everywhere else the HB50 definition applies which is “building, space or room used for meetings, assemblies, theatrical performances, and the like.” Equally, it might be termed a Multipurpose Hall in other states.
Also, in NSW, a ‘grid’ might be the “framework from which lines are run for the purpose of lifting flying scenery above the stage floor,” or it might be the ‘grid’ common across all states and territories which is a “framework of reference lines (from which) “the measurements and the position of building components, assemblies and elements may be determined.”
South Australia is the only jurisdiction that includes and defines a Brush Fence—a fence made predominantly of the native Broom Brush Melalueca Uncinata.
Flood and Fire Variations
The way planning and building for natural disaster safety is addressed depends on different state building codes. Victoria has its own definition of Flood Hazard Area while NSW is currently the only state that has a specific definition of Designated Bushfire Prone Area in its version of the NCC.
Keeping up With Technology
As products and technologies change, so has the NCC. For example, the dictionary reflects the evolution of energy systems and requirements for energy efficiency performance.
There are multiple terms around renewable energy storage batteries, including battery, battery enclosure, battery charging and battery room. But not all the battery terms relate to energy—there is also ‘Battery-Low Condition,’ specific to types of fire and smoke alarms.
There are also definitions specific to energy efficiency rating systems, such as BASIX and NABERS, terms relevant to thermal performance calculations, such as ‘K-factor’, and technical and product definitions for massive timber and engineered wood products.
Is Larry a Person or an Object?
Since the construction industry is global, many Australian projects will encounter terms specific to another country. Some of these have also been included.
In the USA, for example, the term ‘wood’ is used more often than ‘timber’ for many building products, and an Australian ‘verandah’ is a ‘veranda’.
What is called a ‘wale’ in the US is ‘waling’ in Australia. Both are a system of beams or trusses, but there are technical differences between what exactly is meant by ‘window casing’.
The dictionary also includes some very regionally-specific terms. For example, if a worker is from New Zealand and asks where the ‘Larry’ is, they might not be searching for a colleague but actually asking for a hoe “with a steel blade or prongs used for mixing plaster.”
Capturing the Craft in the Trade
Many terms in the dictionary reflect the long legacy of craftsmanship in trades including plastering, carpentry and glazing. Terms like ‘whitewash’, for example, are more likely to be specific to a heritage restoration project than a new build. An ‘oogee’ or ‘oogee moulding’ might rarely be called for as being “a moulded shape with a wave-like, partly rounded face section made up of a convex and a concave curve” it involves a high level of aesthetic detail in project design.
Other terms are a reminder of the paper plans of the past. For instance, a ‘kite winder’ refers to a central winder for a staircase of three winders turning a right angle, got its name from the fact it resembles a kite on a two-dimensional plane.