Class 3 and class 9c buildings now included in the DBP and RAB Acts

Luxury Apartment Building exterior view

A range of essential regulations and compliance measures exist in Australia to oversee the construction and design industry. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) continually updates these regulations in line with the landscape, and will implement the latest changes to class 3 and class 9c buildings in the next few months.

In 2020, the NSW Government passed two laws to regulate the industry: the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (DBP) and the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act 2020 (RAB).

The DBP Act brought in compulsory requirements and obligations that industry practitioners must follow to increase BCA compliance, while the RAB Act gave higher levels of power to the NSW Building Commissioner and authorised officers to take strong action against defective building work.

The BCA introduced these measures to ensure compliance with their codes and to take affirmative action against defective building work. Initially, these laws only applied to Class 2 residential apartments, with the plan to add more classes in the future. In accordance with that plan, Class 3 and 9c buildings are now being included in these changes.

Modern interior of new entrance in residential building.

Class 3 and 9c buildings: what are they?

First, let’s look at the buildings these changes relate to. Class 2 buildings are typically multi-residential apartment blocks, while class 3 buildings include residential buildings with classifications other than classes 1 and 2.

These are buildings usually used for long-term or transient accommodation purposes for unrelated people, like hotels, motels and boarding houses, but dormitory accommodations or workers’ quarters can also fall under this class.

Class 9c buildings, on the other hand, are residential care buildings that house residents with additional and varying levels of care requirements.

Class 9c buildings are determined by the level of physical assistance needed for the residents. The BCA will class the building as 9c if over 10% of residents there require physical support in day-to-day activities or in the event of a fire evacuation.

Engineers discussing design in the computer

Changes for class 3 and 9c buildings

The DBP and RAB Acts will start applying to Classes 3 and 9c buildings on July 3, 2023. It’s important to note that for now, these changes are for new buildings only. But as of 1 July 2024, they’ll apply to existing buildings in these classes that have planned alterations or renovations.

As part of the NSW Government’s commitment to restore public confidence in the building and construction industry, changes to these classes will aim to improve performance and design of buildings, while also promoting occupant safety.

Public concern has grown in the last decade regarding building issues, particularly with incidents like that of the Opal Tower in 2018, which saw a mass evacuation following defects such as improperly fitted aluminium shadings on the facade and fire-safety issues in the lobby’s ventilation system.

Engineer wearing safety unifrom and helmet under checking fire alarm emergency system

How do these changes affect fire and essential services?

These changes will further promote fire compliance with the BCA and avoid defective issues that cause fire safety risks. Greater oversight and regulation of fire safety in these buildings can support risk mitigation for fire hazards and improve safety for occupants.

If you are a designer, builder or engineer, you will need to register under the DBP Act to continue working on Class 3 and 9c buildings in NSW from 3 July 2023.

Additionally, some designs will need review and declaration for compliance with the BCA and lodgement before building work can start. Builders must carry out construction work in line with the declared designs, while designers must provide notice and pay a levy before they complete the build.

The goal of these changes is to ensure building construction is safe, transparent and meets the needs of those who live there.

Safety officials checking a fire extinguisher

Ask the fire safety experts

The extension of the DBP and RAB Acts to classes 3 and 9c buildings is a significant change for the building and construction industry in NSW and a positive move towards increased fire protection.

If you’re unclear how these changes might impact your next build or development, contact our team at DEM Fire today.

Contact DEM Fire & Essential Services Group

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