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The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) has raised its concern with a planned delay to the implementation of updated building regulations by the Western Australian Government.

AIRAH warned that the WA Government’s decision to extend the provisional use of the National Construction Code 2016 until May 2021, among other regulatory changes, may risk Western Australia falling behind other states.

The 2019 version of the National Construction Code (NCC 2019) was generally adopted throughout Australia on 1 May 2019. Amendment 1 of this version is due to be adopted nationally on 1 July 2020.

However, the WA Government has announced plans to extend the use of the old code, NCC 2016, until 30 April 2021.

AIRAH has warned that as the deadline for moving to the amended version of the NCC approached, and with COVID-19 delaying the completion of some projects, it was important to adopt NCC 2019.

The Institute warned the move would create a divide between Western Australia and the rest of the country in terms of standards, occupant safety and sustainability in the built environment, and in terms of the skills and knowledge of its workers.

AIRAH CEO, Tony Gleeson, said the organisation was opposed to this plan.

“The WA State Government says this is designed to help Western Australia respond during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe it will significantly weaken it,” Mr Gleeson said.

AIRAH pointed to research by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks in 2018 that showed strong energy standards for new buildings in Western Australia could, between 2020 and 2050, reduce energy costs by up to $4 billion, deliver at least ten million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings and save households up to $1,000 per year in energy bills.

“Volume One of the NCC – which applies to commercial, industrial and multi-residential buildings – focuses on reducing energy consumption by a potential 30 per cent – a step-change for commercial buildings,” Mr Gleeson said.

“But as things stand, Western Australia will not reap these benefits.”

AIRAH said that the plan will also be detrimental to Western Australians working in the building industry, especially those in national roles.

“At a time where the industry nationally is already facing challenges with basic compliance and construction quality issues, encouraging a greater divide across any borders is illogical and somewhat irresponsible,” said Mr Gleeson. “Consistency would encourage the transfer of skills and knowledge, reducing costs and benefiting the community.”

AIRAH also questioned the need for a blanket extension for a full 12 months, rather than considering projects affected by COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis.

“Everyone understands that COVID-19 has delayed work, and some projects will need leeway,” Mr Gleeson said.

“But the Western Australian Government is planning to extend the deadline for NCC 2016 not just for construction in progress, but for all building permit applications. And extending the deadline until May 2021 is only going to complicate things further when NCC 2022 appears.

“We call for the government to reconsider its plan. Far from helping Western Australia and its people, it risks leaving them behind.”

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