Non-conforming building products

Background information

Non-conforming building products (NCBPs) are products and materials that:

  • claim to be something they are not;
  • do not meet required standards for their intended use; or
  • are marketed or supplied with the intent to deceive those who use them.

For example a building product that is labelled or described as being non-combustible but which is combustible is a NCBP.

Non-complying building products (NCPs) are products and materials that are used in situations where they do not comply with the requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC). This may include products that comply with the relevant standards in terms of testing and/or marking, but have been used in a location or situation for which the NCC states they are not suitable.

An example of a NCP would include a building product that is combustible, and described as such, but is used in a situation where a non-combustible product is required under the NCC, so it is not fit for purpose and is therefore a non-complying product.

A building product or material can therefore be both non-conforming and non-complying.

When a concern or a problem is first detected with a building product or material it can be difficult to work out whether it is a non-conforming product or has been used incorrectly and not in accordance with NCC requirements (and is thus a NCP). In many cases the same process of investigation or testing will need to be undertaken to find out whether the product or material is non-conforming and/or non-compliant.

The risks and problems associated with NCBPs (including those relating to health, cost remediation, safety and legal issues) can consequently affect everyone and anyone in building and construction, including parties involved in designing and engineering, assessment and approvals, manufacturing or importing, buying and selling, building or occupying. 

Ensuring building products conform and comply

To help reduce and mitigate risks and issues associated with non-conforming and non-complying building products, it is important to be aware of the different ways that help to ensure that building materials meet the relevant codes, technical standards and local laws.

Some measures that can be taken include:

  • only dealing with reputable suppliers;
  • looking for materials, products and systems that have widely recognised industry certification or accreditation;
  • where appropriate, looking for materials, products and systems that have CodeMark or WaterMark certification;
  • checking that the product or material supplied and installed is what is nominated in the approved plans and specifications and that appropriate evidence of conformity and compliance is provided;
  • obtaining suitable evidence from the supplier and consider either undertaking inspection or testing if such evidence is not available or appears suspect; and
  • not using specific products, in cases where the required compliance and conformance is not demonstrated.

National Construction Code requirements

The NCC is a uniform set of technical provisions for the design, construction and performance of buildings including building products (excluding electrical and telecommunication products) throughout Australia. It is comprised of:

  • The Building Code of Australia (BCA) – Volumes 1 and 2 of the NCC;  and
  • The Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) – Volume 3 of the NCC.

The general provisions regarding the acceptance of design and construction are found in Part A2 of Volumes One and Three and Part 1.2 of Volume Two of the NCC. These sections of the NCC can be accessed and downloaded from the Australian Building Codes Board website.

There are six different types of evidence that can be used to verify that a product conforms and or complies with the NCC. These include a:

  1. CodeMark or WaterMark Certificate of Conformity;
  2. Certificate from an appropriately qualified person such as an engineer;
  3. Certificate from a product certification body accredited by Joint Accreditation Scheme of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ);
  4. Report issued by a registered testing authority; and
  5. Other suitable documentary evidence which is deemed acceptable by the relevant decision maker(s).

Product assurance

There are a range of methods and schemes that can be used to test and prove that a building product or material is genuine and will do what it is made to do.

A detailed list and description of each of the schemes can be found in the Australian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) Procurement Guide on the APCC website.

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