Making sense of the NCC and what all of the terms really mean.
Alternative Solution, Performance Solution, Building Regulations, Deemed-to-Satisfy (DtS) Provisions, Prescriptive Solutions, Verification Method, Objective and Functional Statement; are all terms used by the ABCB in relation to the National Construction Code (NCC). Some of these terms are defined within the NCC while others are used more generally in ABCB publications such as Handbooks, YouTube clips and the ABRB. So when the ABCB refers to a term such as “Provision”, what exactly do we mean?
In the context of the NCC and wider building and construction industry, it is acknowledged that commonly used terms can have differing interpretations. This can sometimes lead to misunderstanding of the intent of what the ABCB is trying to communicate. Further to this, the essence of clear interpretation of meanings has become increasingly important over the last 18 months as some common terms of the NCC are proposed to be changed. These changes aim to assist the use of the NCC and provide clarity over how practitioners use the NCC.
In light of these changes, as well as a way of clarifying existing terminology, the following definitions are intended to clarify just what the ABCB means when we refer to commonly used words or phrases.
Building and Plumbing Regulation
Each state and territory’s legislation consists of an Act of Parliament and subordinate legislation which empowers the regulation of certain aspects of building work or plumbing and drainage installations and contains the administrative provisions necessary to give effect to the legislation.
It is the referencing of the NCC in these pieces of legislation that make it a nationally recognised, uniform code. This legislation prescribes or “calls up” the NCC to fulfil any technical requirements which have to be satisfied when undertaking building work or plumbing and drainage installations.
NCC Performance Requirements
NCC Performance Requirements are statements intended to set the minimum level of compliance needed in order to provide an appropriate level of safety, health, amenity and sustainability in the design, construction and ongoing performance of a building.
The Performance Requirements of the NCC sit at the top of the code’s compliance hierarchy. This has been the case since the introduction of the performance based code in 1996.
Compliance with the NCC Performance Requirements can only be achieved by using a Prescriptive Solution (Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions (DtS)) or a Performance Solution (Alternative Solution).
Noting that the NCC is a performance based code and that the Performance Requirements are the mandatory requirements of the NCC, the ABCB has set about reminding practitioners that they have a choice when developing a solution and that in the absence in some cases of quantified Performance Requirements, the DtS Provisions provide important information to assist in understanding what needs to be achieved. This message is intended to encourage practitioners to consider the bigger picture of compliance, and to keep in mind the practical, economic and financial benefits of using the most suitable compliance pathway.
Performance Solutions (Alternative Solutions)
Alternative Solutions are one way of meeting the NCC Performance Requirements. The question is asked though; “what’s an Alternative Solution alternative to?” The term “alternative” implies that Alternative Solutions are what you use in lieu of something else, in this case, the DtS Provisions. In actual fact Alternative Solutions hold exactly the same level of compliance status as the DtS Provisions according to the NCC hierarchy.
The proposed change of terminology from “Alterative Solution” to “Performance Solution” is designed to clearly demonstrate that using performance is an option, but an option that meets the same outcome as using the DtS. As it has always been, using a Performance Solution is a way of demonstrating compliance with the Performance Requirements, which can lead to better and more cost effective building outcomes, as well as innovation.
In the process of developing a Performance Solution, one or more of the NCC Assessment Methods must be used. They are:
Evidence of suitability;
Comparison with the DtS Provisions; and
Further information on Assessment Methods can be found in the NCC, the Guide to NCC Volume One and other publications and YouTube clips available on the ABCB website.
Prescriptive Solutions (Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions)
Traditionally, the most common way to demonstrate compliance with the Performance Requirements has been by using the DtS Provisions. The DtS Provisions provide a recipe book of design solutions in order to meet the Performance Requirements.
In their nature, the provisions are prescriptive in that they inform the user exactly how something should be done, with very little room for variation or change.
To complement the proposed introduction of the term Performance Solution, the DtS Provision terminology is proposed to be replaced with Prescriptive Solution. This is considered to more appropriately describe this compliance pathway. The term “solution” is intended to reinforce that both pathways to compliance have equally the same importance and equally the same weighting in the NCC hierarchy.
Such terminology changes do not change the way that compliance with the NCC is achieved, but rather clarifies that there are options in achieving a required outcome. The choice is yours.
Verification Methods in the NCC are provided to assist in demonstrating compliance with the relevant Performance Requirement and are considered a Performance Solution (or part thereof). Verification Methods are not a mandatory component of the NCC; however, they are one form of Assessment Method which can be used to demonstrate compliance.
Verification Methods might include:
– Calculations – using analytical methods or mathematical models; and/or
– Tests – using a technical operation either on-site or in a laboratory to directly measure one or more performance criteria of a given solution.
In keeping with the flexibility provided in the performance based NCC, practitioners are not restricted to using a Verification Method listed in the NCC. Any other method may be used if the appropriate authority is satisfied that it establishes compliance with the NCC. However, in making a decision, the appropriate authority may have regard to the relevant Prescriptive Solutions or Verification Methods provided for in the NCC.
Objectives and Functional Statements
Objectives represent the reason society wants a matter regulated. They are primarily expressed in general terms, and usually refer to the need to safeguard people and protect adjoining buildings or other property.
Functional Statements set out in general terms how a building, including its plumbing and drainage installations, could be expected to satisfy the Objectives (or community expectations).
The Objectives and Functional Statements of the NCC are purely for the purpose of aiding interpretation and to assist in providing guidance on the intent of the Performance Requirements. They have no regulatory status.
Provision is a term used to describe the contents of the NCC. Provisions can be associated with Performance Requirements but the term is more commonly associated with the prescriptive solutions of the NCC.
The meaning of a “Section” differs somewhat between the three NCC volumes.
In Volumes One and Three, Section refers to the main topic areas included in the NCC. For example, Section E of Volume One outlines the requirements for Services and Equipment used in commercial buildings. In essence, Sections are the chapters of the NCC.
NCC Volume One contains Sections A to J relating to commercial, multi-residential and public buildings while NCC Volume Three covers Sections A to G relating to plumbing and drainage installations.
Volume Two of the NCC is structured slightly differently to the other two volumes. There are three Sections to Volume Two. They are General Requirements (Section 1), Performance Requirements (Section 2) and Acceptable Construction (Section 3).
Sections are broken down into Parts, with each Part representing a subset of the section topic.
For example, the Parts included in Section E of NCC Volume One cover firefighting equipment, smoke hazard management, lift installations and emergency lighting, exit signs and warning systems.
The General Provisions of the NCC are outlined in Section A of Volume One, Part 1 of Volume Two and Section A of Volume Three. These Sections and Parts refer to the components of the code that underpin the NCC’s operation.
The topics addressed in these components of the NCC relate to the administrative application of the code, including its regulatory hierarchy and pathways to compliance. Notably, the information included in these Sections and Parts contains information for the use of Prescriptive Solutions and Performance Solutions, specifically definitions, acceptance of design and construction as well as the classifications of buildings and structures.
The use of ‘or’ and ‘and’
The use of the word ‘or’ within the NCC simply refers to an element of choice. The term may be used in a situation where two or more options are available in order to comply with a provision.
The use of the word ‘and’ infers that the statement preceding and following the ‘and’ must both be applied. No option is made available, but rather all requirements must be followed.
The word intent, in general terms, refers to what different components of the NCC are trying to achieve. In the Guide to Volume One, intent boxes are shown at the beginning of each Section or Part which is aimed at providing guidance on what the provision is trying to achieve.
For example, in E1.3 of the Guide, the intent box gives an overview of what the requirement for fire hydrants is trying to achieve, in this case to facilitate fire brigade firefighting operations.
In broader terms, the understanding of intent refers to why the NCC is stipulating certain requirements, which can
be useful when selecting relevant Performance Requirements to develop a Performance Solution. It is important to understand what the Performance Requirement is trying to convey in order to ensure that the solution developed is relevant. Determining the intent of Performance Requirements and provisions can be aided by referring to the Volume One Guide and explanatory information within Volumes Two and Three of the NCC as well as the Prescriptive Solutions contained within the NCC.
Changes to NCC terminology, specifically in relation to “Prescriptive Solution” and “Performance Solution” were proposed in the NCC 2016 public comment draft. Comment on these proposed changes has now closed. The outcome on these proposed changes will be available in February 2016 when NCC 2016 is released.