Government proposes creating a certification scheme to streamline the consenting of prefabs; also suggests giving MBIE more teeth to better regulate building materials

Government proposes creating a certification scheme to streamline the consenting of prefabs; also suggests giving MBIE more teeth to better regulate building materials

The Government is getting started making the biggest changes to New Zealand’s building laws in 15 years.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has released a consultation paper that proposes a raft of changes to the Building Act 2004. 

Of particular importance, it suggests a certification scheme for prefabs be created, and the Act be widened to cover building materials.

Prefabs

MBIE wants to see the creation of a regulatory framework specifically designed for prefabs or “modern methods of construction” (MMC).

The problem at the moment is that the consenting system treats MMC manufacturers the same as traditional builders.

MMC manufacturers are required to get ticks of approval from building consent authorities (BCAs) when certain milestones are reached, even if their projects are replicas of each other.

They also run into trouble when BCAs try to do on-site inspections of work that’s often done far away from the installation site.

Some MMC manufacturers report being required to have two building consents for the same building – one in the region where their factory is, and another at the installation site.

MBIE proposes a voluntary manufacturer certification scheme be created to certify the repeatable processes used by MMC manufacturers.

BCAs would have to treat the work covered by the certification as compliant. 

MBIE says it needs to do more work to determine the accreditation requirements for third parties that would do the certifying.

This diagram shows how the certification system would streamline the consenting process for MMC manufacturers and avoid duplication:

 

MBIE says the proposals should “give the industry a way to demonstrate that their work will comply with the building code across their range of products, rather than requiring a certificate for each product”.

It also says they should give the finance industry certainty, which will help mitigate some of the commercial risks.

Building materials

In the traditional building space, MBIE suggests the purpose of the Act be widened so building products and building methods are regulated.

It proposes requiring building product manufacturers and suppliers to meet set standards around providing publicly-accessible information about their products.

It wants the law to be explicit that manufacturers and suppliers are responsible for ensuring consumer goods are fit for purpose, as existing consumer law doesn’t cover this in all circumstances.

It also wants it to clarify that builders can’t use different products or methods to those specified in the building consent without an appropriate variation to the consent.

On the enforcement front, MBIE proposes the law be changed to give it more teeth so it can require people or companies to give it information to inform investigation on building products and methods.

Finally, and importantly, MBIE wants to have the power to more actively manage product certification bodies.

It proposes that regulations set requirements on product certification bodies, as well as the processes and requirements for registering a product.

There is a raft of other proposals in the consultation document that look at strengthening occupational regulation, the way risk and liability are managed, reducing the building levy, and strengthening penalties for those who don’t comply with the law. Interest.co.nz will examine these further in separate stories.

The public has until June 7 to make submissions on the consultation document.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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11 Comments

Is there any bond requirement for a manufacturer/builder? Once a design flaw is found it might be financially too late for recovery

How is it different from a current setup ? How a claim against a manufacturer/builder is less likely to be enforceable than a claim against a manufacturer and the builder that are separate parties as they are now ?

I think the government should be ignoring this bunch of numpties that have destroyed the building industry in favour of innovation.
How about a set of guidelines and proven techniques a builder can follow without all the regulations and paperwork etc. if the house is made of weatherboard and has eves it should not be subjected to all the regulations and crap that a house made of cardboard and plastic is.

The weather tightness hoops they have to jump through are insane these days, stainless hardware any where outside, clear gaps between decks and exterior cladding (even weatherboard), flashing tape and excessive flashing, and everything has to be inspected and signed off. I trained as a QS/draughtsman 30 years ago, life was simpler back then before Hardies and Carters screwed the whole thing up - chemfree timber and harditex etc...

The problem with having guidelines that builders can follow, how do you regulate the cowboys, both locally produced and imports ? There is some seriously dodgy workmanship out there

Surely we need to be looking at compulsory industry insurance / contributions rather than over-regulation followed by the inevitable avoidance of responsibility... "You didn't prevent me from building a leaky building, council! You should pay, not me!"

We seem to have ended up with the worst mix of a regulatory approach to try to prevent bad quality construction (making things expensive for everyone), with the council then being held responsible for bad quality being delivered by the construction sector.

Lockwood and even Modulock houses had their issues...but like all Prefabricated items, they could be brought into the 21st Century and improved. They were quick to put up. My Father-in-law designed and built some very simple prefabricated buildings ideal for the first rungs on the Housing ladder., he also did Churches and schools..so size is immaterial, but they do have to get the Materials and Insulation...right...Like all things, building for longevity is the Factor....them flippin Houses of the Leaky and falling apart kind, no thanks...we got more than enough.

"give the industry a way to demonstrate that their work will comply with the building code across their range of products, rather than requiring a certificate for each product"

One small anecdote to illustrate the current madness: a FOAF had had a new build completed, and had filed the requisite 75mm thick stack of individual product certifications, fully expecting the Compliance Certificate to be a gimme. No dice. The shower door had not been installed (it was sitting in the garage awaiting the frame glue-up to cure). No certificate. Another inspection required. Another Modest Fee.

BRANZ can usefully be consigned to the dumpster of history as well. If overseas products with internationally recognised certifications as to suitability exist, use 'em without requiring anything more locally.

And the manufacturer-level certification, possibly backed with an insurance scheme, is the only sensible way to enable prefabrication or indeed any off-site modular construction large or small. The current provision for multi-proof consenting is just too hemmed in by all the other regulatory crap. But the intent is sound - take the clueless TLA's out of the equation altogether as to the build: founds and local RMA/Plan aspects are the only thing they are competent to pitch in on.

If they're required to sign off that the shower door has been installed properly, if it hasn't been installed yet then they can't sign it off. Perfectly reasonable.

What should be possible, however, is for the shower door to be installed and for photos / live video of the door to be shown to the inspector in their office so they don't have to make a site visit. Will obviously cost some extra money since it requires their time, but should be less hassle than a site visit for everyone.

Do we have building insurance scheme in NZ now?
When we renovated our house in QLD, I had to pay $2300 as one off building insurance levy for any future issue and the claimable period is 6 years and 6 months.

In the traditional building space, MBIE suggests the purpose of the Act be widened so building products and building methods are regulated.

Hard to see how regulating more products will make houses cheaper. Surely more regulation can only add cost?

I'm in favour of extensive building standards for residential housing. Most commentators and journalists call it regulation. I believe the building industry, specifically residential buildings (not apartment blocks greater than two stories) world wide have many opportunists, whether developer or builder. A developer will scream blue murder if there is one bit of regulation that protects the end user, you or me. Builders of the old school and even more recently trained are either too lazy or ignorant in having to read up on newer standards eg NZS 3604-2011 and the various acceptable solutions for building a house. The LBP (Licenced Building Practitioner) introduced around 2011 will take at least ten years to shake out the building opportunists who were given LBP status because of their past experience.

There is a design/building process called SHAS (Simple House Accetable Solution). This would likely cover 95% of all kiwibuild houses. I believe the problems pointed out in the article apply to SHAS which is at variance with SHAS's original intention.
This is one area I'm in favour of central govt wielding a big stick to Councils insisting on far more information than the original intention for which SHAS was developed. It would be a starting point for pre-fabs and other kit set type houses.

There is an engineering process called type testing which has been used for well over 50 years. This is where a piece of equipment is tested and passed to a standard and subsequent builds do not need to be re-tested or approved. This is alluded to in this article but not called type testing.

Unfortunately between MBIE, NZS and the industry there are still areas of difference in the standards. It generally needs a technical person outside of govt, but with the necessary authority, to bang a few heads together between different govt departments to get a resolution. A typical instance of this MF (mucking fuddle) is roofing underlay, a membrane that sits below the the roof cladding (your roof) and above the timber roof framing.