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New Heights of Accountability for Built Practitioners

The Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (“DBP Act”) aims to regulate built processes across NSW after infrastructure failures amongst residential buildings repeatedly surfaced. The Act commenced on 1st July 2021 and imposes stricter obligations on construction and engineering practitioners.

The DBP Act establishes two schemes of registration for practitioners. Firstly, all engineers – including civil, structural, electrical, mechanical, fire safety and geotechnical – working on a residential building must be registered, or supervised by a registered practitioner.

Secondly, design and building practitioners who are required to make compliance declarations must have at least five years’ experience, and meet qualification, knowledge, skills and continuing professional development (CPD) requirements. Compliance declarations must be made for work involving a building element or a performance solution (i.e. an approach specifically designed to satisfy the Building Code of Australia).

Furthermore, all practitioners must have adequate insurance(s). Although, insurance requirement is not assessed at the point of registration, it will become a mandatory condition of registration starting from 1st July 2022.

Compliance Declaration and Sign-Off

The compliance declaration scheme is meant to identify practitioners responsible for the design and construction of a building. It gives rise to a duty of care for practitioners and keeps them accountable for their work. Under this scheme, documents must be lodged at various junctures of a built process.

The first point of lodgment is when a Registered Design Practitioner submits the final design for all building elements and performance solutions, including plans and reports, to the Building Practitioner. The Building Practitioner must lodge the design and compliance declaration on the NSW Planning Portal and receive a construction certificate before commencing work. If the design is varied, a varied regulated design must be lodged on the NSW Planning Portal for approval. This can be considered as the second lodgment point.

The third lodgment point occurs before clients apply for occupation certificates. The Building Practitioner must submit a building compliance declaration and other relevant contractor documents and variation statements, declaring that the building satisfies the specifications in the regulated design and the Building Code of Australia.

90 days after the occupation certificate is issued, the Building Practitioner must make a final lodgment of regulated designs declaring any variation to the building or that no variation is made since the third lodgment.

Deemed as a transformational reform, the DBP Act has set in place a compliance declaration scheme to ensure that building designs satisfy the requirements of the Building Code of Australia and other relevant standards. The DBP Act targets residential buildings only (categorized as Class 2 buildings), but there are plans to roll out additional reforms for other classes of buildings in the near future.