A question of continuing control -balancing building quality of housing and building codes
Zaidi, M.A and Davies,Hilary 2009, A question of continuing control -balancing building quality of housing and building codes, in BAF 2009 : Performance, innovation and expectations of the Building Code of Australia : Building Australia's Future International Conference, Australian Building Codes Board, [Brisbane, Qld.], pp. 1-15.
The Building Code of Australia seeks to establish “nationally consistent, minimum necessary standards of relevant, health, safety (including structural safety and safety from fire), amenity and sustainability objectives efficiently”. These goals are laudable – but where are the goals of quality and maintenance, which are also an essential part of achieving adequate and continuing health and safety for the built environment?
Defects such as dampness, settlement and cracking, staining, wood rot, termite damage, rusting, and roof leakage are common enough to suggest that there are still issues with building quality in housing. They are caused by a combination of initial poor workmanship and poor quality materials and latterly by poorly executed or inadequate maintenance.
Local architecture, developed over many years of trial and error, produce buildings linked to their climate and local materials (think of the typical “Queenslander” house). Today’s architecture imports technologies and materials from many differing countries and climates – that are not necessarily suitable for the location, nor is there necessarily the same quality control over the material quality and production. Inappropriate use and inadequate understanding of new materials and techniques can lead to the generation of further defects.
Whilst the building code contains provisions for initial-build material quality and workmanship, there is no continuing control over a house over its life span. Reliance is placed on advertising the need, for example, to employ qualified tradespeople; replace batteries in smoke detectors; and other good advice to help maintain housing to a minimum standard. Is this sufficient?
Mechanisms to make the transfer of knowledge to those who need to use it – be it the workforce or the houseowner – need to be improved. Should the building code be more visual and accessible in it’s content? Should the building code include provisions for maintenance? Should the building code require every house to have a “users manual” – much like a car? An extensive review of literature identifies the scale of the problem of poor quality housing and highlights some suggested causes – inadequate knowledge of the BCA by general housebuilders being one. However little work has been done to investigate what could be done to improve the situation. This work suggests that improvements to knowledge transfer would improve the quality of housing and a model of the knowledge transfer process is proposed, identifying those areas where the knowledge flows need to occur that would impact both the builders and users of housing.
Field of Research
120299 Building not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective
970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design
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