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ICA backs building product comparison tool

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The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) is supporting the launch of an online building product comparison tool, as debate over how to solve the construction industry crisis continues.

Head of Risk and Operations Karl Sullivan says the new website, BPI Rating, will help building professionals “find and compare compliant, resilient and sustainable products developed by responsible manufacturers”.

“We have all seen the result of poor building material choices play out in recent times,” he wrote on LinkedIn.

“Choosing building products that are most suited for the task and that will be durable to extreme weather and accidental damage is one critical step on the path to ensuring that buildings will be resilient and insurable into the future.”

Mr Sullivan told today that ICA supports the website to help “avoid future flammable cladding-style events” and also assist with the transition to a lower carbon economy.

“The tool will assist the industry to highlight building materials (or uses of building materials) that are creating safety concerns or are spiking insurance claims and leading to premium increases or exclusions,” he said.

“Once fully matured this tool will provide a mechanism for the industry to promote correct maintenance practices for Australian building materials. For example, educating homeowners whose iron roof is rusty to consider their options before the next cyclone season arrives.”

The BPI Rating website was created by environmental consultant Edge Environment and software solutions specialist Comply Flow, with the support of ICA.

Mr Sullivan says building product suppliers and manufacturers should use the website to add products, which they can do free of charge.

Meanwhile, the scale of apartments defects across Australia was laid bare last night in an ABC Four Corners program.

It featured case studies including Sydney’s cracking Mascot Towers and leaking, mould-infested apartments in Canberra and Melbourne.

“What we’re seeing is the outcomes from a poorly oversighted industry, with a lack of competence and in some cases a lack of integrity,” Bronwyn Weir, co-author of the Shergold Weir report, said.

“Commercial imperatives have really overtaken public interest in terms of decisions that have been made.”

Building defects consultant Ross Taylor told Four Corners the problems start with developers, who often use big-name architects at concept stage to give a project sales appeal, but then downgrade.

“Once they’ve got the pre-sales and the bank then allows the money to flow, they cut the name architect and then go to an unregistered architect or draftsman just to map out the basics to go to tender. That’s the start of the defects.

“The builder, who has no training in design by the way, now takes responsibility for the design done to date, and completing the last half of the detail. Now he’s doing that on a tight budget.

“And so what frequently happens is he gets the sub-contractor to finish the designs the way they see fit. The sub-contractor doesn’t have time to complete that design and so he gets his tradies to turn up on the job, to finish the design off on the go.

“That’s the design and construct model that’s operating in most of these high-rise buildings and is at the heart of the problems that we see today.”

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) yesterday announced the suspension of a registered building surveyor “on public interest grounds”.

“The authority took the action after discovering the building surveyor had failed to prevent the installation of combustible external wall cladding on five multi-storey buildings in Victoria,” the VBA said.