Codewords Issue 95

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12 June 2020

In this issue:

Kia ora koutou

Welcome to issue 95 of Codewords, a special bumper issue covering everything we've been working on over the past few months!

My name is John Sneyd, and I'm the new General Manager of the Building Systems Performance Branch at MBIE. It has been a very unusual induction starting in the middle of a global pandemic, but so far I’ve been incredibly impressed with the way my new team have kept our key projects moving forward throughout the lockdown and the subsequent lowering of COVID-19 alert levels.

The lockdown was obviously a very challenging time for people across the industry, especially for those of you who had to leave building sites and projects at short notice. It's now clear though that the building and construction sector is going to be a key part of New Zealand's economic recovery, and I'm very much enjoying being back after previously working for several years in the old Department of Building and Housing.

There's lots of great work happening at the moment, but the most exciting piece of news in recent weeks has definitely been the Building (Building Products and Methods, Modular Components and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2020 being put before Parliament.

The changes in the Bill will be great initiatives for the building and construction industry; the Bill introduces a specialist framework for modern methods of construction, speeding up the consent process for things like offsite manufacturing and prefabrication. It will also introduce minimum product information requirements and strengthen the product certification framework to improve confidence in the CodeMark scheme.

We've also had plenty of other work that is starting to bear fruit, including the release of a number of new exemptions to building consents, a reduction in the building levy and some additional protection for subcontractors through the retention money regime.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Codewords.

John Sneyd

GM Building System Performance (BSP)
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

John Sneyd

John Sneyd

GM, Building System Performance

Building system updates

Building Law Reforms are now in front of Parliament

On 27 May 2020, the Building (Building Products and Methods, Modular Components, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill had its first reading in Parliament.

The Bill is now in front of a Select Committee and open for submissions. Submissions close on 10 July 2020, and we encourage you to have your say.

Follow the Bill's progression and make a submission on the Parliamentary website.

The changes in this Bill will allow the sector to shift to new, more effective ways of working, help support productivity improvements, lift the efficiency and quality of building work and improve trust and confidence in the building regulatory system.

This Bill forms part of a wider programme of work to lift performance of the regulatory system and drive better outcomes for the sector and for New Zealanders.

Key changes in the Bill will:

  • introduce minimum information requirements about building products to support better and more efficient decision-making;
  • introduce a specialist framework for modern methods of construction such as offsite manufacturing and prefabrication and speed up the consenting process;
  • strengthen the product certification framework (CodeMark) to improve trust and confidence in the scheme
  • widen the scope of the building levy

  • create new offences and penalties, and increase existing penalties, for offences against the Building Act. 

Learn more about the Bill on the Building System Performance website

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The building levy is reducing

From 1 July 2020, the building levy rate will reduce from $2.01 to $1.75 (including GST) per thousand dollars of consented building work, for all work that is over the $20,444 threshold (including GST).

Reducing the levy rate will lower building consent costs by around $80 for the average new build, and by $5,200 for a $20 million commercial project.

This is good news for those looking to build or do other building work requiring a building consent.

The lower building levy rate will reduce the surplus that has accrued in the building levy account without affecting the level of service MBIE provides to levy payers. In addition, Building Act changes currently in front of Parliament will enable MBIE’s Chief Executive to spend levy funds on a broader range of activity to monitor, oversee and improve the performance of the building sector.

More information about the building law reforms

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Changes to the Building Code update programme

The June update to the Building Code has been delayed until September, and future updates will be done on an annual basis.

Currently, the Building Code is currently updated twice annually – in June and November. However due to the impacts on the sector from COVID-19 and feedback we’ve received from stakeholders, MBIE has decided to delay the planned June 2020 Building Code update.

Find out more about changes to how the Building Code is updated.

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New building consent exemptions have been approved by the Government

A number of new and expanded building consent exemptions are being added to the Building Act, increasing the amount of low-risk building work that can take place without a building consent.

The changes, announced by The Minister on 24 May 2020, are expected to save building owners up to $18 million a year in consenting costs and reduce the number of consents issued by councils by up to 9,000 a year.

Read a full overview of the new exemptions

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LBP knowledge link

LBP Registrar update

Kia ora. We are halfway through the year, and 2020 has brought changes none of us of us were expecting. The response to COVID-19 has been unlike anything New Zealand has been through before.

There has been a lot of uncertainty, around both public health and the economy and we are still to witness all the immediate and longer lasting impacts it will have for NZ collectively and for us individually.

Please follow the Government's COVID-19 advice to get accurate information to keep yourself and others safe, further information and guidance is available on the following websites.

The return to level 1 will mean a greater sense of normality, but during this time the importance of workplace safety remains paramount. Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ), in consultation with industry, have developed COVID-19 Construction Protocols, designed to help the construction sector adapt to the risk of COVID-19 transmission. These protocols will be very relevant for LBPs as we work together to play it safe.

I also want to acknowledge that during times of uncertainty there can be personal, financial or business concerns that may be affecting you or your work colleagues. It is important during these times that we feel confident to reach out for help and support our fellow work colleagues should they need assistance.

The official government COVID-19 website has a number of resources and contacts to help you during these uncertain times. This includes information on looking after your mental wellbeing and financial support for businesses.

Guidance for looking after your mental wellbeing

Financial Support for businesses

The Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) scheme has managed to remain operational over recent weeks, although some services have been at reduced capacity. Thank you to those LBPs who may have experienced delays over this time for your patience and understanding.

Should you have any questions with regards your licence during the COVID-19 response, there is a series of FAQs available in the news section on the LBP website. This page is being updated as new information comes to light, so please check it for the latest updates on the status of LBP services.

Hang in there, be kind, play it safe, and we will continue to rebuild.

Kia kaha.

Duncan Connor.

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Liquefaction lessons

Following a 2-year transition period, Acceptable Solution B1/AS1 will no longer be used for foundations on land prone to liquefaction. Foundations will be consented as a Verification Method or Alternative Solution.

LBP license logo for classes F, C and DArticle is relevant to LBP licence classes: Foundation, Carpentry and Design

New Zealand is a high earthquake hazard region, and earthquake considerations are integral to the design of the built environment. Liquefaction is a real risk (especially to buildings) as it can result in settlement, tilting, stretching and damage to services and utilities.

What is liquefaction?

Liquefaction is when the strength and stiffness of a soil is reduced by earthquake shaking or other rapid loading. Three key elements are all required for this to occur:

  1. Loose soil – typically sands and silts or, in rare cases, gravel
  2. Saturated soil – that is, below the ground water table
  3. Sufficient ground shaking – a combination of the earthquake duration and intensity of shaking.

 

What are its effects?

In areas with soils that are susceptible to liquefaction, significant damage to structures and lifelines can be caused by liquefaction-related lateral spreading and lateral stretching.

Lateral spreading is the horizontal movement of ground towards the free face (open face) or downslope as a result of liquefaction of shallow underlying soil deposits.

Lateral stretching appears as ground cracks that typically occur when the ground moves horizontally between two points over a given length.

Lessons from Christchurch

Widespread liquefaction in the Canterbury earthquakes has resulted in an extensive amount of research and guidance, developed locally and nationally, on past occurrence of and future vulnerability to liquefaction.

There is also a broad understanding of the effects and how to mitigate these. As a result of this awareness, buildings constructed after the earthquakes are to be built to the latest standards for liquefaction-prone land and will be more resilient than the older building stock.

Building Code change to foundations

Traditional foundation solutions contained within B1/AS1 were found to perform poorly on ground that is susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spreading during an earthquake. Therefore, Acceptable Solution B1/AS1 will no longer be used on ground prone to liquefaction or lateral spreading. To implement this change, the current limits for 'good ground' in Building Code clause B1 Structure have been adjusted.

This change means that foundation solutions on land prone to liquefaction and/or lateral spreading will need to be consented as a Verification Method or Alternative Solution.

Some cost concerns raised

Feedback from public consultation in August/September 2019 revealed that most of the building and construction sector believes that the change regarding liquefaction-prone ground will increase the cost to build on liquefaction-susceptible land.

However, this will be offset by a gradual increase in seismic resilience and a corresponding reduction in post-earthquake disruption to Kiwi homes.

Experience from the Canterbury rebuild also demonstrates that the engineered foundations, in time, are actually cheaper than conventional slab-on-ground foundations due to increased availability and changes in supply and demand.

Key outcomes of the change to liquefaction-prone ground requirements include:

  • achieving greater resilience via appropriate initial geotechnical investigations
  • increasing sector efficiency through communication, collaboration and education
  • raising the awareness of the risk of liquefaction and its impact on land and buildings.

2-year transition period

There is a 2-year transition period for these changes, giving everyone the opportunity to come up to speed with the requirements.

During the transition, MBIE will run an awareness campaign (education and training) targeting the general sector and advising key stakeholders of Building Code updates.

The Building Code update consultation November 2019 webpage has more information on the biannual Building Code updates programme.

You can check out the updated Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods on the Building Performance acceptable solutions and verification methods website.

Quiz

1. During an earthquake, soil and water can combine to form a semi-solid material in a process called?

a. liquid faction
b. liquefaction.
c. quick sanding.

2. What report is required to assess a site is prone to liquefaction or not:

a. Geotechnical report.
b. Structural report.
c. Building services report.

3. Foundation solutions on land prone to liquefaction and/or lateral spreading will need to be:

a. consented as a Verification Method or Alternative Solution.
b. compliant with B1/AS1.
c. consented as an Acceptable Solution.

4. When will the new changes regarding building on liquefaction prone areas come in to effect?

a. Immediately, they are already in effect.
b. In two years, allowing a transition period to map liquefaction prone areas and increase awareness among stakeholders.
c. The changes are optional.

Check answers

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On-the-job learning for Licensed Building Practitioners

On-the-job learning was included as part of the LBP skills maintenance requirements in 2015. We recognised that many LBPs learn best by doing, and that elective skills maintenance activities don't capture learning on the job.

Article is relevant to LBP licence classes: All

Sometimes LBPs struggle to think of ideas for on-the-job learning, especially if they have been working with the same products and techniques for some time. While learning to use a new product or technique is a great example of learning, it’s not the only area of learning that is relevant.

Consider the range of skills LBPs need

LBPs require a range of skills and knowledge to carry out their work effectively. Here are some areas relevant to LBPs you may wish to consider for skills maintenance:

  • Regulatory knowledge – knowing your legal responsibilities, applying for building and resource consents, staying up to date with changes to the Building Code, participating in consultations.
  • Technical knowledge and skills – new products and techniques, putting theoretical knowledge into practice, learning from mistakes, refreshers, looking up standards and other technical guidelines.
  • Health and safety – learning safer methods of working, participating in site inductions, using new types of PPE or equipment with improved safety features.
  • Professional skills – managing contracts, liaising with clients, managing resources, supervising workers.

Some LBPs spend less time directly on the tools – for example, if they are undertaking more management or oversight type roles. It is a common misconception that these LBPs will struggle to complete on-the-job learning. However, LBPs overseeing projects will still need to maintain their regulatory knowledge, manage health and safety on site and hone their professional skills.

LBPs working in senior positions often supervise contracts, people and resources on the job. This type of work is relevant to their LBP professional skills and can be used for on-the-job learning examples.

Understand the difference between elective activities and on-the-job learning

Sometimes it is less clear if learning should be classified as an elective activity or on-the-job learning if it was completed while at work. For example, you might take a first aid course as part of your employment.

The on-the-job learning component of skills maintenance is designed to capture learning that doesn't fit under an elective learning activity, as it occurs organically while you are on the job.

A good rule of thumb is to consider listing the learning as an elective activity first, and then if it doesn't fit, consider including it as on-the-job learning. For example, a first aid course is structured training, so it would fit as an elective activity.

Record your learning

To record your on-the-job learning, you don't need to write a whole essay, but you do need more than one sentence. For us to understand the value of your on-the-job learning, you need to briefly cover the following:

  • Summary of the project or job and your role
  • What you learned
  • How this will improve your ability to work as an LBP.

You can also attach any relevant documents, such as plans, photos, records of work, specifications and meeting notes. It may be easier to fill in the record when you do the learning, so it is still fresh in your mind rather than waiting until your skills maintenance record is due.

The easiest way to add an on-the-job learning example to your skills maintenance record is to submit it to MBIE directly via the LBP portal online. Alternatively you can download the record of on-the-job learning form and send it in the post. There are also industry providers who offer tools to assist LBPs in collating their skills maintenance record, but you need to ensure these records are passed on to MBIE when your record is due.

Codewords issue 77 (Build magazine issue 157) has more information about on-the-job learning, or you can check out some further examples on the LBP website.

Useful links:

LBP portal to submit your skills maintenance record

Record of on-the-job learning form to send in the post

Codewords issue 77

Some on-the-job learning examples

Quiz

1. How many on-the-job learning records do you need to provide for each skills maintenance cycle?

a. At least two in total.
b. Two per licence class you hold.

2. A senior builder has been supervising and providing technical guidance to an apprentice. Can the senior builder also use this activity for on-the-job learning?

a. Yes, if they think the experience has improved skills relevant to their licence class, such as supervision and managing staff.
b. No, as they were not doing the building themselves.

3. Completing a first aid course should be ?

a. Elective skills maintenance hours.
b. On-the-job learning.

Check answers

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Licence cancelled after negligent and incompetent supervision

The Board recently handed down a significant sanction against carpenter Henry Rogo (BP101184)

The Board recently handed down a significant sanction against carpenter Henry Rogo. The Board has chosen to publish the details of the matter due to the seriousness of the offending and the strong penalty. It is important that LBPs are aware of the consequences of negligent and/or incompetent supervision and avoid similar outcomes.

Decision against Henry Rogo (CB25174)

Mr Rogo was found to have:

  • supervised building work or building inspection work in a negligent and incompetent manner, and
  • supervised building work or building inspection work that does not comply with a building consent.

Mr Rogo was engaged as a supervisor to complete a new residential build. The building work was carried out by unlicensed labourers working as contractors. He did have one experienced builder in Wellington, but that person was engaged on the build of his own house.

Mr Rogo was residing in Auckland and the build was in Wellington. He attended once a week and when on site he did not carry out adequate checks of the building work or ensure that compliance issues were being dealt with. He also displayed a lack of knowledge of what was occurring on site or of the issues raised in council inspections.

The Board heard evidence that there were repeated failures of the work carried out under Mr Rogo’s supervision and no real steps taken to ensure compliance was achieved. This was evident in a Notice to Fix issued by the Porirua City Council. The inspections also identified non-compliance with the building consent.

The majority of the issues should not have arisen in the first place. It was clear that the labourers on the site carrying out the work were out of their depth and were not receiving any guidance or direction. As a result, it was falling to the Council Building Control Officers who were carrying out inspections to provide instructions by way of their site notes. The Building Consent Authority’s role is to check that the building work has been carried out in accordance with the building consent, not to instruct builders on how to build. It was clear to the Board that the Respondent was derelict in his duties as a supervisor.

The Board cancelled Mr Rogo's LBP Carpentry and Site 1 licences with a stand-down period of 6 months before he can reapply for licensing. The Board also ordered Mr Rogo to pay $5,500 towards the costs towards the inquiry and that this decision would be publicised.

What we can learn from this decision

Inadequate supervision and a lack of knowledge of what was occurring on site led Mr Rogo to be disciplined by the Board. It is clear that Mr Rogo did not apply a sufficient level of supervision given the skills and experience of those on site and the complexity of the work. LBPs need to understand the skills and knowledge required to supervise building work and to make an informed judgement as to the level of supervision required. Supervisors also need to have adequate quality control processes in place to build right the first time, rather than overly relying on council inspections after the fact.

The LBP Practice Note – Supervision provides guidance on using supervision correctly, as well as risk-based considerations for determining how to supervise a particular job. LBPs are strongly encouraged to read it in detail.

This Practice Note can be found on the LBP website, along with this decision and other past decisions: https://www.lbp.govt.nz

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Recent determinations

What to consider when assessing a coastal inundation natural hazard

Determination 2019/067 considered what approach was appropriate when calculating coastal inundation.

Background

The owners applied for a building consent to build a house on their property, which is located next to a tidal estuary. They had previously received a building consent to build a seawall along the property boundary with the estuary. The owners had also carried out improvements to the site to reduce ponding and installed a surface water removal system.

However, the building consent authority (BCA) believed the property was still subject to inundation. The BCA considered surface water during storm events could lead to inundation. The BCA also considered inundation from coastal flooding, which included seawater during extreme high tides, storms and sea level rise. The building consent for the house was issued subject to a section 73 notice. This meant the natural hazard would be registered on the title of the property. The compliance of the house itself was not in question and it had mostly been elevated above the site.

Discussion

The determination concluded the inundation from rainfall events was not a natural hazard.

The determination considered whether the seawall would protect the land and the building work from coastal flooding. In doing this, the determination had to assess the different methods used to calculate the coastal flooding levels.

The Court of Appeal in Logan v Auckland City Council stated "a sensible assessment involving considerations of fact and degree" is required when assessing whether land will be subject to a natural hazard. The determination stated when choosing a method to calculate the inundation level a "sensible assessment" approach should be used. The calculation should estimate the level accurately and realistically given the available data, and not rely on a very conservative approach.

The determination noted the difficulty of calculating coastal flooding levels. This is due to having to factor in existing data about extreme tide levels and storm effects, as well as the likely impact of rising sea levels due to climate change. The determination’s expert opinion used a complex analysis to calculate the coastal flooding level, while the BCA used a simpler, more conservative approach to calculate the flooding level. The complex analysis resulted in a lower flooding level than the BCA’s approach.

The determination stated conservatively calculating the flood level to minimise or eradicate risk is not always the best approach. A conservative approach would lead to calculating the worst-case scenario, which is highly unlikely to actually eventuate. This approach would not follow the "sensible assessment" approach set out in Logan v Auckland City Council.

The determination emphasised the natural hazards sections in the Building Act do not seek to remove or address all risk completely. The impacts of climate change and rising sea levels cannot be predicted with total accuracy, so it will never be possible to remove all risk. However, the determination considered the BCA's very conservative approach to the higher predicated levels of sea rise was unreasonable.

Therefore, the determination considered the more complex analysis would provide a realistic estimate of the coastal flooding level compared to the BCA's approach.

The decision

The BCA incorrectly granted the building consent subject to a section 73 notice.

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Previous issues

About Codewords: Our Codewords newsletter is published six times a year. It will keep you up to date on the latest regulatory and related information for the building and construction industry.

Codewords issues are available for two years after their publish date. If the issue you are looking for is older, please contact us.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: