The Australasian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) have launched a new guide to help the building and design industry better choose construction products that are compliant with the relevant codes and standards.
‘APCC Procurement of construction Products – A guide to achieving compliance’ was jointly developed by 30 key construction industry stakeholders, including the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), Australian Institute of Building (AIB), Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and Australian Constructors Association (ACA).
The Guide was released in response to the vast number of domestic and internationally-produced building and construction products on the market today – a proliferation which has made it difficult to ascertain whether they all comply with the National Construction Code, or conform to the requirements of relevant Australian or international standards.
“Evidence suggests that the market penetration of non-conforming products in several key construction product sectors in Australia may be up to 50 per cent. This is a sobering and alarming statistic,” the Guide notes.
“In Australia, there have been numerous instances in which non-compliant construction products have caused failure or damage to buildings, such as the collapse of buildings and motorway signs, and failure of key building elements, such as glass panels, steel fixings and more.”
Just last year, independent testing by Think Pipes Think PVC revealed a number of imported PVC pipes and fittings to be non-compliant with the relevant standard. A random survey of nine commercially available insulated flexible duct products this year also found that all tested samples failed to comply with mandatory performance standards.
The most concerning consequence of these failures is their impact on safety. In the most extreme cases, failure of products can lead to serious injuries or even the loss of lives.
Another outcome of utilising non-compliant and conforming products is the high level of costs associated with having to ‘change products’ – the report states that one major builder estimated the average cost of rework due to non-conforming products to be between 0.25 to 2.5 per cent of the overall contract value. In an industry characterised by profit margins ranging from 3 to 12 per cent, with insurance rarely covering product failure and rework costs, this cost range is significant.
“A specific rework case to replace plastic water pipes in a high-rise residential development will cost a builder $3 million (2%) on a project valued at $150 million. The ‘leaky homes’ crisis in New Zealand has been estimated to cost NZ $11.3 billion in repairs and replacement costs, which could have been avoided,” the Guide writes.
The durability of construction products also affects the lifespan of buildings and infrastructure assets, and environmental impacts can be profound if the life expectancy of these structures is compromised or reduced.
With such high stakes involved, the APCC believes it is vital that an environment where all stakeholders are confident that the products used have acceptable levels of quality and compliance, and are fit for the purposes for which they are involved is created.
“However, the procurement of construction products has become increasingly complex, and information and guidance to assist the procurement process is scarce. In particular, for many ‘safety critical’ products, there is often a lack of credible and accurate information available in Australia to assist many stakeholders involved in construction projects to verify construction product compliance and conformance, in order to determine whether or not a product is fit-for-purpose,” the Guide explains.
For these reasons it aims to assist procurers, which includes architects, specifiers, engineers and building designers, to gain a more informed understanding, and exercise improved decision-making with respect to the procurement of construction products.
This includes detailed explanations of the regulatory environment, the standards and conformance process and bodies, and how to determine whether a product is fit for purpose.
It also lists 12 principles to guide procurers on matters relating to the conformance of construction products, including ensuring that evidence of products meeting standards are demonstrated by a conformity assessment, and obtaining and retaining all evidence of the source of construction products and their authenticity.