VBA: The Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors
Victorian Building Authority (VBA) state building surveyor Andrew Cialini writes about the Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors following months of preparation and engagement and its enactment on 1 January 2021.
The Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors comes on the back of industry demands and recommendations from the Shergold–Weir Building Confidence Report.
The Code applies to all registered building surveyors and covers eight core principles:
- Act in accordance with the law and in the public interest.
- Act with integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.
- Perform competently and within the required level of expertise and experience.
- Act independently.
- Avoid conflicts of interest.
- Document and maintain records.
- Communicate promptly and effectively.
- Provide a complaint handling process and address issues of non-compliance.
The Code is designed to create a level playing field for the building surveying profession by providing more certainty on acceptable behaviours and practices.
We are supporting building surveyors through this transition with education and are engaging with stakeholders and associations across the industry to build awareness and better practice at all stages of the building lifecycle to support a united approach to improving standards.
As part of this educative approach, we are also providing information and building awareness among other practitioners and consumers. It’s not just about building surveyors being competent, but practitioners and consumers knowing what makes a good building surveyor, in turn ensuring that competent, licensed building surveyors are used. This will help shine a light on the small darker corner of the industry, where poor building surveying practices can drag down the reputation of our profession.
What’s in it for the building surveyor?
As a building surveyor, I know all too well the challenges we face at work. I’ve been down the same paths, faced with handling those challenging moments with applicants, builders and other practitioners. The Code helps define our roles, not just keeping us accountable as building surveyors, but ensuring the community and the rest of the industry understand what we do.
Building surveyors play a critical role in identifying issues with building work, so it’s vital we perform to a high standard to help keep Victorians safe. The Code acknowledges that building surveyors perform an important and unique statutory function that is integral in maintaining building safety.
The relevant building surveyor’s role is, in effect, to provide a third-party review or audit of documents and building work, remaining independent. We have a lot of knowledge about construction practice and the compliance framework but it’s not up to us to solve design issues when acting in a statutory role. We need to leave this work to the many registered professionals with expertise to document for compliance or to an independent building surveying consultant. We can offer regulatory guidance along the way but need to be sensible in our approach.
Introduction of the Code will be a learning curve for industry and will require further guidance from the VBA on the way it’s interpreted – this isn’t be lost on us. In turn, we are taking a consultative approach, working with our cohort of building surveyors and industry to make sure we get it right. The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) have been included in this process, playing a part in developing a national framework for codes of conduct.
We are working closely with ABCB in a bid to drive consistent behaviours and create a level playing field for building surveyors. Key recommendations from the Building Confidence Report are being implemented by ABCB Building Confidence Report Team as they develop the national framework, and, following this collaborative approach, we are pleased that the Victorian code fits well within the draft ABCB framework.
We acknowledge there are risks associated in developing these in parallel, but we didn’t want to delay this important reform. Given Victoria was one of the few states without a Code for building surveyors, it was vital it was developed and released as soon as possible to ensure the required system changes were made.
This strategy will be the first of several Codes for building practitioners developed over the next 18 months. This is a great vehicle for change and improvement across the board with building surveyors leading the way. Why building surveyors first? It was one of the many recommendations that came from the Building Confidence Report.
We can’t allow the industry to be compromised by poor performance – it shouldn’t be a race to the bottom. The Code will drive change, further strengthening and sustaining an already highly valuable, unique and skilled profession.
This is a look to the future for the profession and for it to work, we need building surveyors to come along with us.
What I ask of my fellow building surveyors is to focus on the little things and how they relate to the Code, and to continue to engage with the VBA throughout this journey. This isn’t the end but the beginning of something that will focus and reinvigorate our great profession.