Parliament is nearing completion of major changes to the Building Act to remove barriers to prefabricated consenting and to regulate building products. The changes will create an entirely new prefab consenting path and put central governmental controls on building products.

This summary outlines the main Building Consent Authority (BCA) changes. Read the full Select Committee report here.

Prefabricated Housing – Speeding up the Building Process

Under the new legislation there will be a separate consenting pathway for prefabrication. Housing that is constructed in a factory will be consented by a new consenting body, a Modular Component Manufacturer Certification Body (or MCMCB). This will speed up consenting because under the existing legislation, prefabricators must get two building consents. They need consent in the jurisdiction where their factory is located and housing module constructed. They also need to get building consent in the jurisdiction where the house will be sited.

Under the new scheme, there will be a shortened 10-day consenting period rather than the 20-day timeframe. This will be for prefabricated buildings that are single components in their entirety and have been manufactured by a single certified manufacturer. The council consenting process will only need to focus on the siteworks such as foundations and connections to services, and the prefab itself will already have its own consent certificate. Prefabs that do not meet this definition will have a 20-day consenting period.

There will also be a new change for prefabs at the Code of Compliance Certificate (CCC) stage. The prefab manufacturer must provide a certificate to confirm that the work carried out in relation to the house has been completed in accordance with the manufacturer’s certification and registration.

There will be quality assurance procedures for the new process to ensure that the prefabrications comply with the Building Code. The procedures will be consulted on and developed in regulations after the Bill passes into law. Under the proposed scheme the manufacturer will need to satisfy the certification body that they have policies, procedures, and systems in place that comply with requirements prescribed in regulations and will result in them performing their functions competently.

The certification process for prefabricated housing does not involve council certification for either the consent or the code of compliance, therefore, the liability for the prefab units will lie with the manufacturer.

Product information

There will be a new system which will require mandatory building product information for all building products. Product manufacturers will have to state product information on their products which will assist the construction sector to specify compliant materials. A product database would also assist local authorities during the consenting process, however, this level of detail is yet to be worked out in the regulations.

Our submission last year focussed on how the scheme should provide information on how a product complies with the Building Code, limitations of a product’s use, exclusions of use, and enough clarity for agreement in a situation where someone is trying to use a product outside of its intended use. We further submitted that there be sustainability information, and that there be alignment between product information and product certification so that information is reliable.

Product certification – new controls and certification process

There is a current product certification system system (CodeMark) which will be taken over by the new scheme. There is a lack of confidence that CodeMark provides assurance that products comply with the Building Code.

The new product certification scheme will be strengthened to ensure that products and/or building methods are certified by a registration and that they comply with the Building Code. MBIE will be given powers to investigate and take disciplinary action under the proposals.

Under the scheme, a certified building method will in effect mean that there are two alternative routes to speed up consenting, one through prefabricated manufacturing and another through product certificates that has certified building methods and products. 

Commencement of changes

At the time of writing this, the second reading of the Building (Building Products and Methods, Modular Components, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has been completed and the Committee of the House stage will be next.

The commencement of the new legislation will come into effect 15 months after the Bill passes into law to allow time for consultation on complex regulations prior to implementation.

If you have questions about this please contact Susan Haniel, Senior Advisor, Sector Improvement.