The Australian National Construction Code (NCC) is a code that provides technical guidelines regarding the construction and designing of all buildings and related structures in Australia. Previously, NCC was referred to as the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCD) (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). Publication and maintenance of the NCC are done by the board of Australian building codes. The NCC also offers different options regarding the development of compliance standards and solutions to buildings. Performance requirements of buildings are achieved through the solutions and guidelines outlined by the NCC (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). The NCC also provides codes related to plumbing and drainage. Since its name change from ABCD to NCC, its publication has been done in three different volumes containing information on general requirements.
General requirements include the classification of building types, required standards for accepting the design and construction of buildings, the interpretation of building terms, and other building standards. These general requirements are in the three volumes of NCC and are also included in the consolidated requirements document (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). The NCC also outlines the performance requirements of buildings that outline the prerequisites of the performance level of all structures and buildings. Additionally, compliance standards are also outlined in the NCC. Performance requirements cannot be achieved without the incorporation of compliance solutions. Compliance solutions are different depending on the construction methods used, materials used in the construction process, and the overall design of the building. The categorisation of a compliance solution falls under two groups, either performance solutions or deemed-to-satisfy solutions. However, in other instances, it is a combination of the two.
The NCC also provides different assessment methods that include the following: verification techniques, expert judgement, ways and techniques detailed in the sustainability provisions evidence, and the collation and contrast with the provisions of the deemed-to-satisfy solutions. Of all the assessment methods provided by the NCC, the one that is commonly used is evidence of suitability and is used in both deemed-to-satisfy and performance solutions.
What is Performance Solution?
As explained above, NCC outlines all performance solutions. A performance solution can be described as a compliance standard that ensures performance requirements and standards outlined in the building code of Australia are met and adhered to. Compliance and adherence to the NCC are achieved partly through performance solutions (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). It is important to note that performance solutions are mostly used where there is no technical compliance. Performance requirements are met through performance solutions. There are three main considerations for all performance solutions. First, the different performance requirements applied to the performance solutions, secondly, the different ways through which the solution achieves the performance requirements and the provisions of the deemed-to-satisfy, and thirdly, the effect of the solutions on other performance requirements.
What parts of the National Construction Code (NCC) are mandatory?
As has been explained above, the NCC outlines the minimum requirements regarding buildings, structures, and guidelines on health and amenities, fire safety, ease in accessibility, building sustainability, and ease in access among other issues. All buildings, new construction works, drainage, and plumbing systems have to comply with the NCC. Several parts of the NCC are mandatory. They include the performance requirements, general requirements, and state and territory additions and variations. These requirements are met mostly through performance-based solutions and deemed to satisfy solutions.
What is an Alternative Solution?
An Alternative Solution can be described as a building solution that not only adheres to performance requirements but also satisfies the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ (DTS) standards of the building codes of Australia (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). An alternative solution is mostly used when DTS provisions are not available or they cannot be achieved because of building restraints. Dispensations and exemptions are usually applied for buildings that do not meet the provisions of DTS. Moreover, alternative solutions are included in building design and they show adherence to the building codes. However, alternative solutions are different from acceptable solutions.
There are several important points regarding alternative solutions. First, they can be partly different from acceptable solutions or verification methods depending on the design of the building and the construction method used. Secondly, alternative solutions are important when an architect or engineer wants to adopt a cost-effective approach or wants something to perform more efficiently, or when dealing with specific site problems (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). Third, alternative solutions can be used for entire projects or in some parts of the project, for example, in building fire escape plans, drainage systems, disposal systems, handrails, and staircases, among many other building components.
In conclusion, it can be stated that alternative solutions offer building solutions and make it easier for users to access the building (especially disabled people or those using wheelchairs, those with amputated legs, and those with minimal hand dexterity amongst other mobility limitations). An example of an alternative solution is making a leaf door automated so that even people without hands can easily access the building.
Why would you want to include an Alternative Solution in building design?
There are several reasons for the inclusion of an alternative solution while designing a building. First, it offers the opportunity of considering an alternate design solution. However, it is important to note that the alternate solution has to be evaluated using the Australian building codes assessment methods. Assessment methods entail the evaluation of the alternate building solution vis-a-vis the performance requirements (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). This comparison is important since it ensures that functions and objectives are sufficiently met. Although alternative solutions are required by many buildings, they are more so crucial in existing buildings that are undergoing upgrades and renovations. Complex and complicated solutions also require alternative solutions. Nonetheless, acceptable solutions do not provide for all building works.
Alternative solutions can be inclusive of construction techniques, ways, components, or materials that are completely or partly different from the ones provided in the verification methods or in among the acceptable solutions. However, irrespective of the reason, alternative solutions are required for buildings that adopt a non-generic building approach. Alternative solutions are also included because they show that a building has directly adhered to the building code standards and performance requirements (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). Alternative solutions contain inputs from architects and engineers who guide the design process and ensure compliance with building standards. Alternative solutions are also included because they show how a building has complied with the building code performance. However, the input from engineers and architects will be required depending on the design of the building.
Why would I want to include a Performance Solution in building design?
There are several reasons why performance solutions are included in building designs. Performance solutions are different depending on the requirements of the building. They are mostly used when the designer wants to use innovative design and incorporate technology into the design process. These solutions are flexible and they are concerned with the performance requirements of the building.
The general requirements support performance requirements and they are inclusive of different NCC aspects, for example, the classification and categorization of buildings, building reference documents, suitability and sustainability documents, and interpretation documents among others (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). It can, therefore, be said that a performance solution facilitates and provides the most efficient and effective solution for buildings. The performance solution is design work and it should be an independent part of the process.
Performance solutions also offer a customized solution that meets the purposive and planned objectives and goals of the performance requirements. However, a performance solution will be inadequate if it does not comply with the pertinent performance requirements. The verification of performance requirements is done using the building codes assessment methods (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). Performance solutions make the construction and design process efficient thus saving costs that are incurred in constructing the building. They also enhance the aesthetics of the building and improve its functionality. These solutions also encourage innovation since they make it easier to incorporate new building materials and products that are flexible. Performance solutions also eliminate constraints that may be imposed by the DTS solutions. Lastly, they provide better attractive spaces, improve the quality of spaces and gain in floor space per input unit.
Clause A0.3 of NCC Volume One allows the development of a Performance Solution that either: • meets the Performance Requirements, or • is at least equivalent to the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions, or • a combination of the above. Does this mean that designers can select either pathway?
Designers can select either pathway depending on the type of building or construction process. A performance solution, as explained above, simply means a method through which a building complies with the performance requirements besides/except a DTS solution (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). As such, these two are similar and they are both prescriptive, they explain how things should be done and they explain construction methods, materials, and design factors among other things. The two are interchangeable and there is no difference between the two.
The BCA contains State or Territory variations and additions. Why do these exist in a national building code?
In Australia, every territory or state has its variations and slight deviations from the national building codes. In other states, there are deletions while in other states, there are additions and extra provisions. However, the BCA provides all these additions, variations, and deletions in its appendix. Different regions have different geographic and geological conditions. Consequently, these areas cannot have similar drainage or plumbing systems among other construction systems (Australian Industrial Systems Institute, 2018). These variations, additions, and deletions are also caused by technical, policy, and climate policies. However, when it comes to additions, they occur when a state has to add something not included in the BCA.
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