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Non-conforming vs non-compliant building products

December 04, 2018 Posted by Heath McNab
Non-conforming vs non-compliant building products

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Many building certification consultants face problems with non-conforming and non-compliant building products. Understanding the difference is the key to reducing your risk, managing costs and ensuring compliance with the National Construction Code (NCC).

What are non-conforming building products?

Non-conforming products are those that do not comply with the NCC, other laws and Australian Standards. NSW Fair Trading refers to them as simply ‘bad products’ that claim to be something they’re not (such as non-combustible) and marketed to deceive people into using them.

Non-conforming products either have not been tested in an accredited lab, or did not comply with the parameters of the test. It is important to note that engineers cannot prove non-conformance. Manufacturers must undertake the relevant testing and provide a legitimate certificate to the client.

What are non-compliant building products?

Non-compliant building products are those that are used in situations that do not comply with the NCC. In other words, they are quality products with all the relevant certificates, but have not been used correctly in a development. NSW Fair Trading refers to them as products ‘used badly’.

For example, a product may be deemed suitable for a Type C construction under three storeys, but has been used in a 10-storey building. In this situation, the product in non-compliant with the NCC. Engineers can determine whether products are fit-for-purpose or used correctly in your development.

Who is responsible?

Using non-conforming or non-compliant products can lead to serious risks and liabilities for your development and business. Architects, engineers and other specialists need to make sure that any products, materials or systems used in a development are fit-for-purpose and meet the performance requirements.

Your MBC building certification consultant is also responsible for inspecting the development for any signs of bad products or products used badly. We may require evidence of suitability for a particular product, material or system if there are questions about their compliance with codes, standards and laws.

Since the Grenfell tragedy in London and Lacrosse apartment fire in Melbourne, the government has introduced legislation that aims to reduce the use of materials that do not conform or comply to the NCC, particularly in relation to imported products.

The introduction of non-conforming and non-compliant building products into the Australian supply chain is one of the biggest issues facing the industry, with many experts suggesting that more needs to be done by state governments to tighten the chain of responsibility.

Tips for reducing your risk

Using products, materials or systems that don’t comply with the NCC will not only compromise their performance and void their warranty, but also pose a significant safety risk to the general public. However, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Seek professional advice from your MBC building certification consultant early in the process. We can review the proposed products, materials and systems during the design phase and ensure everything is compliant with all relevant codes, laws and standards.

  • Maintain quality assurance processes to ensure product substitution does not occur. If a substitution is necessary, make sure due diligence is undertaken and the change will not affect the quality or compliance of your development.

  • Understand the background of each product and its intended use in the development, by working with trusted manufacturers and suppliers who undertake stringent testing in Australia and can provide any evidence of suitability that is required.

  • Stay informed about changes to codes, laws and standards that will affect your development. We advise clients on any current or potential reforms to the building industry that may affect their project, to ensure they remain safe and compliant.

While prevention is better than cure, it can be difficult to demonstrate that products are fit-for-purpose and comply with the NCC. If you have any concerns or questions about your development, please get in touch with our building certification consultants.

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