Australia’s Constitution and Building Regulations
The Australian Constitution sets out the roles, responsibilities and powers of the Australian Government. By standard convention, those matters that are not mentioned in the Constitution remain the responsibility of the States.
As the Constitution does not mention matters regarding the safety, health and amenity of people in buildings, responsibility for them rests with the State and Territory Governments. This has led to eight separate Acts of Parliament and eight distinct building regulatory systems. At various times, it has been even more complex, with some states passing on many of their building regulatory powers to their municipal councils, which effectively enacted their own building regulatory systems by way of council by-laws.
Australia's Model Uniform Building Code
The complexity of Australia's building regulatory system provided a legislative maze for building practitioners to work through. However, after World War II several of the States and Territories started to establish more uniform technical building requirements, and those States and Territories which delegated their primary responsibilities to municipal councils started to reclaim control. This prompted further discussion about the benefits of having a national set of building regulations.
In 1965, the Interstate Standing Committee on Uniform Building Regulations (ISCUBR) was established. ISCUBR was an agreement between the State and Territory administrations responsible for building regulatory matters to pool their resources for the benefit of all States and Territories. ISCUBR's first task was to draft a model technical code for building regulatory purposes. The document was referred to as the "Australian Model Uniform Building Code" (AMUBC), and was first released in the early 1970's.
The AMUBC contained proposals for both technical matters and some administrative matters, which were based on the then Local Government Act of New South Wales. The intention was that States and Territories could use the AMUBC as a model for their own building regulations. However, variation from the model was considerable, with many changing the provisions in accordance with their perceptions of local needs.
The Building Code of Australia
In 1980, the Local Government Ministerial Council agreed to the formation of the Australian Building Regulations Coordinating Council (AUBRCC) to supersede ISCUBR. AUBRCC’s main task was to continue to develop the AMUBC, which led to the production of the first edition of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) in 1988. The BCA was further refined and a new edition was released in 1990. States and Territories progressively adopted this edition of the BCA during the early 1990s.
In 1991, the Building Regulation Review Task Force recommended to Council of Australian Governments (COAG) the establishment of a body to achieve far-reaching national reform. An Inter-government Agreement (IGA) was signed in April 1994 to establish the ABCB One of the first tasks of the ABCB was to convert the BCA into a more fully performance based document.
The ABCB released the performance based BCA (BCA96) in October 1996. BCA96 was adopted by the Commonwealth and most states and territories on 1 July 1997, with the remainder adopting it by early 1998.
In 2003 a decision was taken to move to an annual amendment cycle with a date of operation from 1 May each year. From 2004, the BCA moved from BCA96 to become BCA 2004, BCA 2005 in 2005 and so on.