The well publicised changes to the Building Act and the introduction of the Licensed Building Practitioner scheme have and will make a significant impact on the way homes are built and renovated in New Zealand.
It has also introduced some new terminology and phrases into the building language. Licensed Building Practitioners (LBP) are now required for all Restricted Building Work (RBW). RBW is
now defined as work on the design, construction, renovation and alteration of residential buildings. The purpose of the Act and the LBP scheme is to ensure that all work on the primary structure of a residential building and it’s external moisture management systems are undertaken by or supervised by an LBP.
Anyone who has been granted a licence can be found on the DBH register on their website. It is important to remember that the scheme applies only to residential buildings, like your home, and small to medium apartment buildings. Apartments over 10 m high, office buildings, schools and ancillary buildings are not covered by the RBW scheme. There are layers upon layers of detail in the scheme, and while it may seem a little baffling, once you start to understand the purpose of the scheme, which I believe is to improve the build quality of our homes, then what may appear as more “red tape” can be seen as the necessary framework to ensure houses are warm, dry, sound and efficient.
This scheme was introduced in April of 2012, making the 4 houses completed during season 1 of The Block NZ, some of the first houses in the country to be completed under the new rules. As you as a homeowner should do, each of the teams has had to make sure that the “tradies” they have used to complete the RBW within their homes have been LBP’s. This is absolutely crucial, and the first question the Building Inspector asks when he arrives on site is “Where is your licence?” The LBP’s details are then registered online on the Council website, and where there may be more than one LBP working on a house, a Memorandum of Works is created and the details and scope of the work completed by each LBP is recorded. Sounds complicated I know, but all the tradesmen I have met have adapted to the changes and are ready to work under this new system.
Most have also come to understand that some of the “it will be alright” attitude of the past will not be acceptable under this new scheme, and that any shortcuts that may have resulted in failures of the building envelope or the primary structure of the building, cannot be taken, or if they are, your name is registered on the Building Consent, and you can be held accountable. During a chat over a coffee and cookies, most of the “tradies” recognise the impact the scheme will have on their trade practices and will be quite forthright with their clients as to how they choose to manage and complete RBW.
So, does this mean that there is little for the homeowner and keen renovator to do within their own home? Not at all. For a start, when you consider all the tasks involved in a renovation, there is plenty left for you to do. Stripping existing wall linings and trims, helping with insulation, some fixing of plasterboard lining, internal trims and finishes, and lots of carrying and cleaning up. And then there is all the painting to do. Basic home maintenance and repair are permissible, and replacing “like for like” in some situations is allowed under the Act. A person who is not an LBP can complete work under the supervision of an LBP, so a homeowner could work alongside an LBP to do RBW who would then be the responsible for the standards and quality of the work. This is not too different from a typical building team working on a house, where the owner of the firm may be the LBP, and some of the tradesmen working on the job will not be. The work is then done under the supervision of that LBP.
There is some complexity involved in the definitions and distinctions of what is and what is not covered by LBP and RBW, and while I have provided an overview of the scheme, more detailed information can be found on the Department of Building and Housing website, www.business.govt.nz/lbp For someone planning or underway with a new build or renovation, visit www.builditright.govt.nz for more useful information. I have found this to be a useful resource while working through the process of licensing myself, and as a reference for clients to find information themselves.