Building Code of Australia 2015 update


May seems to come around quicker each year particularly this year where it’s been a busy start for BuildSurv with many projects that are now starting and many others gaining momentum as a new confidence seems to be returning to the market. The start of May also sees a new version of the BCA (2015) being adopted which will be the last time it is reviewed on an annual basis with BCA2016 not being updated for 3 years from issue.  At a recent BCA update session that BuildSurv attended, we noted a number of changes which we have summarised some of the main items in this newsletter. For a full summary of the BCA2015 changes, take a look HERE.

BCA 2015 National Code of Australia (NCC) now on-line

As many may already know you are now able to access the BCA online and save your own copy of Volumes 1 & 2 (Building Code of Australia (BCA)) and Volume 3 (Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA)) as well as the BCA Guide which provides an informative commentary to each of the Volume 1 BCA Clauses. If you want to obtain a copy, please go to and follow the prompts.

External cladding

There is a large number of new external cladding materials entering the construction market for both the domestic and commercial sectors.  Whilst new claddings may be innovative there has been some failures occurring locally and overseas for structural reliability and in particular weatherproofing. In BCA2015 a Verification method has now been provided whereby if the product has not been Certified, it may be assessed on a score method using a risk based assessment.  The score of the material assessed will vary according to how it is fixed (direct fix, cavity wall or unique). The new Verification is seen to provide another method to achieve compliance with the performance requirements.

Development of Performance Solutions

It was also interesting to note at the session that the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) focus on facilitating the development of performance solutions. The use of performance solutions (alternative solutions) is not uncommon now but, is set to become more of a focus for Building Regulation in the future as designers, builders and Building Surveyors like us move away from just trying to meet the Deemed to Satisfy provisions of the BCA. 

The ABCB emphasised the need for all project stakeholders to collaborate and develop an agreed pathway for the design process to follow and, to document this process in a Performance-Based Design Brief (PBDB). Whilst all Alternative Solutions are documented currently using the Building Rules Consent process, it is expected that a PBDB will form part of the process moving forward in 2015.

BuildSurv will continue to undertake our performance based approach to ensure compliance requirements are best suited to the particularities of a building and will be developing a pro forma to assist applicants with the PBDB process.

Mandatory sprinkler protection to be provided to all residential aged care buildings

Following recent tragedies in 2011, the mandatory sprinkler requirements currently prescribed for Class 9c buildings is being expanded to include Class 3 and Class 9a residential aged care buildings. Previously it was permitted for these types of buildings to be non sprinkler protected and only incorporate fire and smoke separation measures to control the spread of fire and smoke but, this will no longer be permitted where the buildings are specifically used for residential aged care.

In BCA2015 all new Class 3 and 9a buildings used specifically for residential aged care will be required to be sprinkler protected. It is likely that any significant additions or upgrades to an existing facility that requires a Building Rules Consent assessment will require fire sprinkler upgrades pursuant to Section 53a of the Development Act.

It is suggested that if clients are undertaking any works on an existing non sprinkler protected residential aged care building that this new requirements is bought to their attention and advice sought.

Barriers defined

Part D2.16 of the BCA has always been difficult to interpret. Not only does the Clause create confusions when a balustrade is required but, also the type of barrier required.  In BCA 2015 the term ‘balustrades’ have now been removed and the Clause renamed ‘Barriers to prevent falls’ and also includes the openable window requirements introduced in BCA2014.  It has removed much of the script text which has now been replaced with Table D2.16a which should assist in interpreting the Clause in the future.

Part J Energy Efficiency

No BCA seems complete without a ‘tinker’ of Part J. The provisions in Part J5 have now been restructured and improved. One of the significant changes is the clarification of the exemptions allowed to the defined term “air-conditioning”. Previously air conditioning of areas that maintain conditions for equipment or processes such as UPS rooms, and the like were still required to comply with the provisions of Part J and an Alternative Solution was often required. 

Under the new definition of ‘air-conditioning’ any new systems installed in areas where specialised conditions are required are now exempt from the Part J5 provisions. To permit this exemption the mechanical consultant will need to provide the necessary evidence as part of the documents submitted for Building Rules Consent.

Australian Standards update

In the BCA2015 you will see some new Standards and some amendments and new versions of existing ones that will require updating of specifications including:

  • AS 3660 Termite Management – Parts 1 and 3 have been revised to 2014 editions and now permit new products to be tested and implemented (Old in transition until BCA2017);
  • AS 3786 Smoke alarms – similarly the 2015 edition permits a wider range of detection systems and technologies to be used;
  • AS 2047 Glazing in housing – the new edition is to be implemented as part of BCA2015 and all new glazing for housing installed after 1 May, 2015 will need to meet this revised Standard;
  • AS/NZS 4824 – this new standard has now been adopted to assist in the assessment of new building facades;
  • AS/NZS 2179-2014 – this standard deals with rainwater goods and accessories including fasteners and in particular the suitability of the different materials used.