Improvements in apartment construction quality now legislated

In June 2020, the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (NSW) took effect (DBP Act). 

The registration and certification regime which follows the DBP Act will come into force on 1st July 2021. 

The DBP Act applies to residential apartment buildings. These are defined as Class 2 buildings under the National Construction Code i.e. buildings containing four or more apartments and three or more stories high.

The failures in the abovementioned apartment buildings highlighted a series of flaws in design, documentation and construction processes. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the defects only became evident after the buildings were occupied for a period and after the Developer and Builder had “disappeared” i.e. dissolved the company responsible. The Owners were left without a legal remedy.

Why is this new apartment construction quality legislation needed?

This Act is the NSW Government’s response to the recent apartment controversies involving Opal Tower, Mascot Towers, and several others in Sydney.

The demand for apartments in Sydney, which increased sharply from around 2015, attracted the interest of many unscrupulous speculators who saw the opportunity to make quick profits. The incentive to cut costs and maximise profits impacted on every part of the development and construction process. The results were:

  • Poor or inadequate construction documentation
  • Employment of Construction Managers rather than reputable Builders
  • Faulty or corrupt approvals and certification
  • Subcontractors left to “make it up as they go” due to a lack of documentation
  • No responsibility for any participant regarding what was built
  • Owners buying “off the plan” had no guarantee of what they would receive when they took possession
  • Defects of all types from major to minor
  • No legal remedy to have the numerous defects corrected.

What does the legislation mean for future apartments?

The Building Commissioner appointed by the State Government to address these issues has developed a comprehensive strategy which addresses all aspects of the problem. There are six key actions or pillars:

  1. Improvement and strengthening of the regulatory framework
  2. Improving the finance, insurance and building standards. This includes a rating system for Builders and Developers
  3. Increasing the education and training standards for those employed in the industry
  4. Better building contracts and procurement methods. This includes major changes to ‘Design and Construct’ contracts
  5. Digital Future i.e., digital records for all aspects of the delivery chain to be held on a single E-Planning register
  6. Incentives provided for research and development of construction systems and materials.

In short, by the end of 2021, the apartment development sector will have undergone radical and significant change.

It should be noted that the accounts relayed about the bad practices prevalent in Sydney were almost unbelievable from our local perspective. We seem to have been somewhat insulated in Newcastle from the worst of the shoddy speculation.

It is also worth noting that much of the reform is aligned to the traditional documentation and tendering procedures. A superior outcome is the result of the following process: 

  • An architect-approved design (Development Approval) is accurately translated with comprehensive construction documentation by the architect (Construction Certificate) 
  • Competitive tenders are obtained from reputable and experienced builders
  • The project is built under an industry-standard contract with the architect providing contract administration services

Throughout this process, the best outcome will be achieved when the same architect is included from inception to completion.

Despite recent efforts to cut corners, reduce costs to unrealistic levels and fast-track developments, traditional and more thorough procedures still deliver the best building outcome for all parties. The newly introduced apartment construction reforms in many ways reinstate and regulate these traditional procedures.

Having successfully completed a number of apartment buildings, our office includes the necessary qualification and experience to design and construct apartment buildings in accordance with the new legislation.  

Find out more about our quality-driven apartment design and construction.

Image: Unsplash



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