Building Surveyors and Access Responsibilities

During the design and construction process, few roles require the vast knowledge base of the building surveyor. Their role, as described by the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS), is ‘ensuring buildings are safe to occupy, energy efficient, accessible and are suitable for occupation.’

‘As part of this responsibility, they review, analyse and assess plans for compliance to current standards, conduct building inspections, issue relevant legislative permits and approvals and undertake enforcement.’

Building surveyors are primarily required to confirm compliance with the National Construction Code (NCC). In addition to certification, building surveyors can act as consultants on design, fire safety, energy efficiency and access solutions, however they may not be directly involved in any design creation.

Clients entrust building surveyors to confirm their buildings are safe to inhabit, accessible, and protected from any legal action regarding their construction and performance.

A building surveyor’s three major access responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring certified buildings completely satisfy the requires of the Access Code (the Access Code is included in Volume One of the BCA and sets out performance requirements and detailed deemed-to-satisfy provisions).
  • A full understanding of all deemed-to-satisfy access requirements;
  • Ability to effectively determine the appropriateness of proposed performance solutions.

Given the depth of knowledge required to make correct decisions concerning access (particularly concerning performance solutions), building surveyors and/or building owners often engage an access consultant to not only assist in the process, but also to mitigate some of the risk associated with access compliance.

Whether an access consultant is engaged or not, ultimately the building surveyor is (at least partly) liable should any access requirements be missed in the building process or any access issues be encountered.

A common misconception is that a building surveyor can grant an exemption from the need for a building to meet access requirements. This is not the case. A building surveyor, and in fact no other professional including an access consultant, can grant an exemption. Only the Australian Human Rights Commission (in some cases) but usually a court, can do this.

A building surveyor may choose to accept a performance solution that may have been developed by an access consultant as a different way to meet the deemed to satisfy provisions of the NCC. This however must be equal to, or greater than, the deemed to satisfy provisions. It is not an exemption from providing access.

Further details of Access Institute courses specifically targeted at building surveyors, can be found at www.accessinstitute.com.au

‘Very good course, the knowledge of instructors made the content enjoyable and easy to understand.’ — Diploma of Access Consulting/Certificate IV in Access Consulting Course, Perth Student