National Construction Code 2022

Changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) have been delayed until 1 September due to the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a snapshot of the changes that will affect builders and trade contractors in Queensland.

Taking effect from 1 September 2022, the NCC is published in three volumes:

  • Volume One: Class 2 to 9 buildings
  • Volume Two: Class 1 and 10 buildings
  • Volume Three: Plumbing

Key changes 2022

Improved useability

As part of the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) intention to provide a NCC that is user-friendly, NCC 2022 comes with important changes to its structure and format.

The focus being on digitisation of the code and improving its readability.

The changes cover two broad categories:

  • Consistent volume structure to enable web content accessibility on an electronic device.
  • New  layout introducing - Sections, Parts, Types, and Clauses known as the new (SPTC) referencing system.

For those who use Building Code Volume 2 for Class 1 and 10 structures you will notice significant changes to the layout.

All of section 3 containing the acceptable construction manuals  and practices has been moved into a separate document called the ABCB Housing Provisions. The new layout can take some time to get use too, but it does work.

The code also includes a new filtering function for improved search functionality known as “ build your own code” which allows the NCC to be filtered by state/territory, building classification and climate zone. It  is intended for guidance purposes and  should not be relied upon for regulatory purposes.

Quantification

The NCC includes new quantified performance requirements to provide a practical approach to meet the performance requirements within the code.

They do not change any of the current  deemed to satisfy (DTS) pathways or verification methods.

The intention is to provide clarity and the level of performance required when developing a performance solution for construction requirements such as  structural reliability, glass at risk of human impact, bushfire prone areas, fire safety, noise isolation, fire detection and early warning, flow rate and pressure, water efficiency and microbial growth.

Early childhood centres

NCC 2022 also includes revised DTS provisions to address situations where an early childhood centre is located on upper levels of a multi-storey building.

High-rise buildings are increasingly being built as mixed-use retail, offices and car parking. Childhood centres are being included as an incentive for owners and tenants.

As children are the most vulnerable occupants of buildings, the changes are intended to protect them through  fire compartmentation that will provide occupants with a safe refuge area  before they are  evacuated from the building.

Bushfire protection

Bushfire protection for vulnerable occupants in buildings such as residential care is also addressed.

The proposed changes are due to  the findings of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

It  recommended that bushfire protection provisions for certain non-residential buildings with vulnerable occupants be included in the NCC.

A new performance requirement, verification method and DTS is proposed to  provide additional protection to those buildings used by occupants where evacuation is unsafe.

Compliance  however does not guarantee safety of the occupants which is consistent with the scope of AS 3959 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas.

Face mounted balustrade

Requirements for face mounted balustrades have changed. The ABCB noted the inconsistent application of the code to face-mounted balustrades where some designers have allowed a gap of 125mm between the face of a trafficable surface and the balustrade.

A 125mm gap is considered hazardous although a face-mounted barrier will require some gap to allow for construction tolerances. The code will now limit that gap to a maximum 40mm.

Accessible housing

The government is looking to make major changes to include accessible housing provisions for new houses and units.

The intended purpose of the accessible housing inclusions are for new housing to be easy to enter, easy to navigate in and around, capable of easy and cost effective adaptation and responsive to the changing needs of occupants.

While not finalised we do know they are proposing significant changes. Master Builders continues to work through the detail in the requirements, pushing to ensure that they are practical and affordable, and to delay the start date, to a more realistic 2025.

As currently drafted the proposed provisions include:

  1. Step free path from the site boundary or parking area

    An exemption will be available where there no suitable location to provide a compliant path.

    Where the step free path is via the parking area the parking space must be a minimum of 3200 mm wide and 5400 mm long.

  2. Landing (1200mm x 1200mm) at the entrance
  3. Step-free threshold (a ramp up to 56mm high is allowed)

    Addressing weatherproofing and termite prevention is going to be a challenge. We are continuing to push for government to resolve these issues before finalising the regulation.

  4. Entrance door with an 820mm clear opening (generally achieved with an 870mm door leaf)
  5. Internal doors on the entry level have 820mm clear opening and level thresholds (up to 56mm step ramp)
  6. Corridors are 1000mm wide on ground (or entry) level

    Ensure that the distance is measured between the finished walls and not the frame as is industry practice.

  7. Toilet with a minimum 1200mm clear distance in front of the pan (not including the swing of the door) on ground (or entry) level

    If the toilet is in a separate room there must also be at least 900mm between the walls.

    If it is in the bathroom, the centre of the toilet must be between 450mm and 460mm from the wall, basin or vanity.

    It may also need to be adjacent to a wall but the regulation is currently contradictory.

  8. Hobless & step-free shower

    This shower does not need to be on the ground (or entry) level.  If located on another level the requirements for the internal doors and corridors will extend to that level.

    It will be important for builders to carefully manage the waterproofing risk this requirement will bring.

  9. Reinforced walls in the around the accessible shower and toilet

Reinforced with 12mm structural ply, 25mm timber noggings or light gauge steel framing noggings.

If a bath is provided it will require additional reinforced walls.

Energy efficiency

Presently the NCC 2022 does not include energy efficiency and condensation amendments as they have not yet been endorsed by Building Ministers. We can still expect a preview of those amendments prior to adoption.

The draft NCC 2022 did however  propose extensive changes for energy efficiency.

Class 1 buildings star ratings will increase from 6 to 7 stars. The changes for class 2 buildings will require the building to have an average of 7 stars with no sole occupancy unit  being less than 6 stars.

There will be significant costs and technical challenges to achieve the new  requirements.

The DTS requirements for housing have been increased dramatically and the tables are extensive.  It is very likely that ceiling fans  will be required to all habitable rooms throughout Queensland.

As for the Queensland Development Code which currently allows reduced star ratings plus credits for ceiling fans and solar panels, the Queensland Department of Energy and Public Works  has not confirmed any intention to assist industry avoid the unnecessary code changes and cost increases.

There is also the proposed  introduction of a “Whole of House Assessment” which  is a new  requirement alongside energy efficiency.

It introduces a collective energy usage budget for air conditioning, heated water systems, lighting, and swimming pool and spa pumps.

This approach enables trading between the efficiency of the equipment to achieve the energy usage budget but is not used for offsetting any requirements for the building fabric.

Master Builders is continuing to work with government to establish a Queensland  specific code that can reduce the impact of the proposed energy efficiency requirements.

Master Builders is seeking a 3 year transitional period for the introduction of these requirements.

Lead in plumbing products

Lead is currently used in the manufacture of plumbing products such as taps, mixers and appliances for the delivery of drinking water.

The exact lead content of products varies by component, though some products in contact with drinking water can contain up to 6% lead as a proportion of raw material.

The changes require all new copper alloy plumbing products in contact with drinking water to have a weighted average lead content of no more than 0.25%, in accordance with the following options:

Option 1: A test report provided by an Accredited Testing Laboratory, in accordance with NSF/ANSI 372 ‘Drinking Water System Components – Lead Content’

Option 2: A WaterMark licence, provided it includes compliance with NSF/ANSI 372.

As it will take some time for manufacturers to change the manufacturing process and retest products the requirement will be introduced over a three-year transition period.

New waterproofing standard

The new edition of AS 3740: 2021 Water Proofing of Domestic Wet Areas is now a  referenced document to  NCC 2022.

The standard introduces new risk categories based on the probability of an area being exposed to moisture and provides certainty in determining the water proofing requirements.

For example, Risk Category 1 applies to those areas subject to high concentration of water and drainage requirements and includes enclosed showers, unenclosed shower areas and any area in reach of a hand held shower fitting.

New fall requirements for substrates are included in the standard. The intention being to prevent saturation of a screed bed that is situated on top of the  substrate.

The falls for water resistant finishes such tiles are now 1:80 for shower areas and 1:100 for general floor drainage.

The new AS 3740 also provides two new options for waterproof materials being glass and PVC  materials.

Stone tiles and concrete have been included as an option for water resistant surface materials.

A new determination of ponding has been introduced.

Water retained by surface tension alone should evaporate within 5 hours when local atmospheric conditions are 21 Celsius, 1013 hPa and 50% relative humidity.

New wind loads for housing standard

The new edition of AS 4055: 2021 Wind Loads for Housing is now a  referenced document to NCC 2022.

The new standard includes clarity on geometric limits. Previously it was unclear how to calculate the maximum height of the house on a sloping site.

The slope is now calculated for retaining walls and batters to a maximum height of 3 metres as a reference line mid height of the retaining walls and batters. The house at any section should not exceed 8.5 metres in height.

The wind region map has been changed due to a review of the weather records.

Thunderstorm records in south east Queensland and northern New South Wales have exceeded the wind speeds for wind Region A.

For this reason, wind region B  has been extended  200 km west between  Bundaberg and just north of Coffs Harbour. That will mean an increase in construction detailing and  costs for those dwellings captured within the extended wind region.

NCC compliance is a statutory requirement, and you should always review and check that your work complies with the applicable sections of the code.

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