Are you clear about the roles and responsibilities of the ABCB?

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is a unique organisation that exists with the goal of developing a nationally consistent construction code. The National Construction Code (NCC) sets minimum-necessary requirements for the design and construction of building, plumbing and drainage systems.

There are a lot of matters that the ABCB deals with as part of producing the NCC, however, there are also a lot of things that the ABCB is not responsible for because of the legislative framework that governs it. What the ABCB does and doesn’t do can get confusing and complicated, so the following article provides an overview. Where the ABCB can’t help you, we have provided the best place to get an answer.

What the ABCB does…

  • Author, publish and maintain a consistent and contemporary NCC.
  • Administer Product Certification Schemes for building and plumbing products, CodeMark and WaterMark.
  • Improve the NCC to maintain its currency through initiatives such as quantifying performance requirements, improving readability and digitisation.
  • Research to improve the content of the NCC, such as fire safety, energy efficiency and plumbing.
  • Supporting materials to assist with understanding and clarification of the NCC.

What the ABCB doesn’t do…

  • Building Control and Approvals to undertake building and plumbing works such as the construction of new buildings or renovations. See local councils or state and territory building or plumbing control departments. A building surveyor/ certifier can also provide advice on such matters.
  • Australian Standards or other documents referenced in the NCC. These documents are published by third parties such as Standards Australia. Clarification of issues included in these documents should be referred to the publisher of the reference document.  
  • Demolition of buildings including heritage considerations, removal of asbestos and approval processes are dictated by local government authorities or state and territory planning or building or plumbing control.
  • Dispute resolution or advice on disputes are the responsibility of local government authorities or state and territory building or plumbing control.
  • Electrical, gas and telecommunications work is not covered by the NCC. This includes technical installation matters. These issues are covered by utility providers or by state and territory departments responsible for regulations around these matters.
  • Licencing and auditing of building and plumbing practitioners including who can design and construct what is determined by state and territory building or plumbing control departments or consumer affairs. This includes the licencing of builders and plumbers.
  • Occupational health and safety matters including guidelines and legislation. Such matters may include high safety (cranes and scaffolding), workplace safety, safe work practices and complaints about unsafe workplace practices are covered by workplace, health and safety legislation in each state and territory and Safework Australia.
  • Planning issues such boundary setbacks, subdivisions, overshadowing, removal of trees, erecting of fences and retaining walls. See the local planning authorities at local councils and state and territory governments.  
  • Project specific advice such as technical interpretations on how a particular NCC provision relates to a specific construction project. These issues cannot be answered by the ABCB and instead should be made to a building surveyor/ certifier, local government authority or state and territory building or plumbing control.
  • Workmanship control including quality and durability of materials, finishes and products are typically consumer affairs issues which are not covered by the NCC.
  • Workplace relations issues such as wages and entitlements, industrial action, discrimination, workplace rights and right to entry laws are covered by the Fair Work Commission or the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Still have questions?

If you are in doubt about who is the most appropriate person to talk to for building and plumbing matters, the best place to start is with your local council authority, state and territory building or plumbing control or local building surveyor/certifier. They will be able to direct you to the most appropriate authority. Alternatively, you can contact the ABCB to provide clarification of NCC clauses.