Licensed building practitioners

From March 1, most residential construction work which already requires building consents will need to be undertaken by licensed building practitioners.

Most industry practitioners were aware of the changes, but it was also important anyone considering any “DIY” work on their home knew about the new requirements. –Neil McLeod, DCC building control

### ODT Online Sun, 22 Jan 2012
Campaign to improve quality in building sector
By Matthew Haggart
A legislation change to ensure building practitioners are licensed for the construction work they carry out on houses will bring better accountability to the sector in the wake of the leaky homes scandal, industry authorities say. The Department of Building and Housing has launched a two-year campaign which is aimed at improving the quality of building in New Zealand and increasing the confidence of consumers – just weeks before a legislation change takes effect.
Read more

(via ODT) Licensed building practitioners include:
• Designers
• Carpenters
• Roofers
• External plasterers
• Bricklayers
• Blocklayers

Restricted building work categories:
• Foundations
• Framing
• Roofing
• Cladding
• Fire safety systems and alarms

Department of Building and Housing: Licensed Building Practitioners (LBP’s)

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Construction, DCC, Design, Economics, Project management, Property

20 responses to “Licensed building practitioners

  1. Rob Hamlin

    This Act effectively puts the DIY’er out of business. As someone who has done a deal of both industrial and domestic building work, all I can say is that it takes a considerable degree of ‘skill’ to create a shoddy bodged shack that still looks superficially great on the day it is sold. Such structures are beyond the skill of the amateur to create. An amateur can generally do either a good job that looks good (my approach), or a corner cutting botch that clearly looks that way. Only building pros (of a sort) can acheive the result I note above – one that will become a ‘leaky building’ at some point in the future.

    This logical supposition clearly shows up in the stats. How many leaky buildings were the work of usually owner-builder amateurs, and how many were the work of ‘pros’ that moved on? The government reaction to this? To reward the pros (both good and bad) with a monopoly on building work. If things turn out as they have done with any other monopoly the outcome will be a rise in price, a fall in quality and a plague of unconsented building work. This is a piece of legislation that is truly fit to be filed with the Local Government Act 2002.

  2. Hype O'Thermia

    My handyman builder had over 35 years in the trade, had his own company, was and is a skilled tradesman before poor health forced him into semi retirement. To comply with the regs before this last lot he’d have had to stuff around at his own expense being “educated” by people who know sod-all by comparison, and he would have had to pay a considerable amount to become a registered/certified/whatever builder. It’s a damned insult. I work with him as fetch’n’carry & steady-this person, he discussed what has to be done and we always choose the option that is sound underneath even if it means skimping on the superficials. I’ve seen the quality of what goes into his work behind the cladding. Rob, you are so totally right, a certificate makes NO difference at all to quality. Another thing that should be addressed – and responsibility examined carefully – is approval of Carter Holt product for infrastructure that supported moulds & rotted readily, also architects’ responsibility for no-threshhold porch designs (seamless indoor-outdoor “flow”, unfortunate term) that allowed water to get under wall cladding. Builders should – if legislation is seen as the answer and maybe it is – be mandated to query in writing to client, architect and council approval office, any designs that they know are at risk of failure in that specific NZ regional conditions, e.g. dry Central Otago is way different from warm wet Auckland, so there should not be a standard that allows or forbids the same for all areas. Experience as well as diplomas and degrees make up suitability for doing a good job. Compliance encourages dodgy practice e.g. putting in enough reinforcing to get signed off then whipping it out to take to the next job before pouring the concrete. No, I’m not making this up.

    • Elizabeth

      Registered architects are responsible for a very low percentage (low single figures) of the New Zealand new housing market. Better to point finger at architectural designers and draftspeople who are the majority of ‘designers’ working for/alongside builders, property developers, and or house clients. That said, the cumulative issues that create leaky buildings have been well identified in the current literature.

      Architects offer a range of services that may include conceptual design, concept evaluation, developed design, consents and working drawings, and project management. If they haven’t been contracted for the full range of architectural services, it’s unlikely they can be held responsible for the ‘finishing’ to completion by other building sector professionals. You get what you pay for.

      On its website, at Understanding the architectural process, the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) states:

      “The Architect’s role does not end when the drawings are completed. Your architect is fully trained to set and manage the entire building process, from design through the tendering and contract process, to observe the construction phase and approving payments to the builder.

      “Architects who are members of the NZIA can provide you with a copy of our comprehensive Agreement for Architect’s Services which outlines every step of the process from first sketch designs through to completion. This is a useful document to use to discuss and assign responsibilities.

      “While some clients might consider employing a ‘project manager’ to oversee construction, it’s important to remember that you are introducing a person into the mix who is not trained as an architect and does not have their skills. You should ask yourself if this is really the most cost-effective or desirable way to ensure that construction proceeds smoothly. Engaging an Architect on a full-service contract ensures that the most qualified person is making the right decisions every step of the way.”

      Architects are licensed building practitioners and are subject to the requirements of continuing professional development to retain registration. The New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB) is the entity responsible for maintaining and reviewing the register of architects.

      You can check if your building professional is a registered architect at:

      November 2002

      Click to access 0210LeakyBuildings1.pdf

      (page 15) “The growth of ‘project managers’, rather than the architect or Clerk of the Works supervising building standards on-site has, according to the Overview Group*, “had an adverse effect on the quality of the overall building product”.

      *Building Industry Authority (BIA) inquiry (the Overview Group Report).

  3. Anonymous

    ‘There would be a “small increase” in the amount of red tape building practitioners and renovators would have to comply with, once the legislation change took effect, he said.’

    Translation: An additional fee to be paid to the Dunedin City Council and a new tick box on a piece of paper, triple-signed by six tiers of middle-management and at least two executives justifying their $100-$200K salaries.

    Anyway, with this bureaucratic nightmare of a council it is likely to fund a new department of DIY Wardens which scoot from house-to-house finding and fining anything and everything.

    “They may not like what we do, but it’s necessary. If we were not there, people would never get a door built or a wall finished,” a warden might say on putting his or her DIY scooter aside…

  4. Phil

    The new legislation applies to all work which requires a Building Consent. As the article indicates, it’s limited to specific subtrades, mainly those relating to structural (obviously) and to external cladding. The later is to try and somehow address the long running Leaky Building issues. The requirement is not that a licenced practitioner carries out a specific item of work, but that they must be present at the time, and certify that the particular item of work was carried out correctly. They don’t have to swing the hammer themselves. In effect, they are taking over the role of the Building Inspector, resulting in less work for the Building Inspectors (and presumably, hopefully, a reduction in numbers). In the way that electricians and plumbers do today. They become essentially self regulating subtrades, removing responsibility from the local authority. Which does create another issue with regard to who one goes chasing after should something be wrong. In practice, what is likely to happen is that smart individuals will attain certification in certain subtrades and then operate on a freelance basis, moving from site to site, signing off those specific items of work as being correct. Be it for construction companies or for private home handypeople. There is also an increase in the scope of work that does not require a Building Consent, allowing for home owners to carry out some works that they currently have not be able to do without applying for a Building Consent first.

    Another change is the requirement to apply for a variation in the Building Consent at any time an approved Building Consent is altered during construction. Which will result in delays. I don’t see this as a bad idea. The problem today is that a lot of developers apply for a consent, based on a “rough idea” of what they want. But without a firm design. The DCC ends up with a set of plans on file which may differ greatly from those originally approved. Creating a problem for future property owners. In applying costs and delays to design changes, it may force designers into thinking through their designs more thoroughly before starting construction. While this may mean that the initial Building Consent application may be larger than before, resources will be saved by having a cleaner process. All in all, we should (read: better) start seeing a reduction in Building Inspectors employed by the DCC as their duties and responsibilities reduce.

  5. Hype O'Thermia

    “A reduction in Building Inspectors employed by the DCC” is a Bad Thing. Why? Because when there is a problem later the home-owner’s beef is no longer with an ongoing entity but with a guy who may have died, retired, moved to somewhere not far out of Perth… declared bankruptcy, be on the bones of his bum, developed dementia. In other words even if totally honest and reliable, he’s not around when you need him. If on the other hand he’s not honest he can trot from site to site OK-ing work that gets covered up by concrete or cladding, either on a mates basis or for foldies in plain brown envelope, prior to disappearing when he has, with his expertise, calculated that brown sticky stuff is closely approaching the fan.

    The DCC goes on forever……. probably even if a forensic audit were carried out the DCC’s responsibility for what was signed off in their name would remain.

  6. Phil

    It has the potential to pull the customer back closer to the Leaky Building problems from a few years back than is necessary. Much of the problem there centered around liability. This was at the time when the government of the day experimented with private building inspectors. When it all fell over, the local authority directed complaints back to the government, citing that they had no responsibility for the actions of private assessors. The same issue could arise here. (There were additional problems with some poorly thought out changes to the NZ Building Standards which have since been corrected). The licensing of Building Practitioners is controlled by the dept of Building and Housing. So if an issue of the failure of a certified component arises, the local authority could potentially throw it back to the customer and tell them to take it up with DBH. In the same way they can today if there is a problem with other self regulating trades such as electrical, fire protection, or structural steel. Even though it’s a bit cumbersome today, the system is current relatively simple to follow. I am overall in favour of the licensing system in that it will help ensure that building practices being used are up to date. A builder who has been doing the same thing for 30 years may have missed or overlooked an important change, or a recently discovered improvement, in the building process. We should (repeat: should) end up with a better product at the end. And a slimmer Building Control department.

  7. Hype O'Thermia

    A builder who has only been doing the job for 5 years and is only truly familiar with modern techniques and materials, the educational resources from which he was informed having come largely from the manufacturers, are in my opinion and observation much more of a risk than “A builder who has been doing the same thing for 30 years”. The old ways included waterproofing not with stuff squirted out of a tube but with metal and timber over- and under-lapped. Look at the underside of boards with a groove cut laterally to prevent capillary action drawing moisture up and into the wall cavity. The old-timers understood expansion and contraction, and flexing, and capillary action, and the ability of wind-blown rain to find its way into the most obscure tiny gaps then work its way along to emerge far far away from the entrance point, things that got lost in the enthusiasm for monolithic claddings.

  8. Phil

    Agreed. The Building Standards authority made a monumental cock up with their changes to monolithic cladding standards. Which they have since fixed whilst cheerfully denying any responsibility.

    It’s not a simple matter to get certified. You would have to be at a foreman type level for a large company to meet the criteria. It’s likely that a builder with 30 years experience would walk in. The question is more whether they would want to. A license is valid for (and I forget right now) one or 2 years, with an application for renewal being required upon expiry. When applying for renewal, the applicant needs to show that they have been active in carrying out that specific type of work during the previous period, and that they have attended “x” number of seminars, trade meetings, etc, to show that they are up to date with the latest standards and practices. For each of the subtrades they are licensed for. That’s a lot of extra work for a one man builder. It’s more likely that they will phone up a licensed practitioner and ask them to be on site when the builder fits the roof ridge flashing (for example). Just to sign off the paperwork.

    It will also be a hassle for a builder to retain the same level of building accreditation as it is dependant largely on the work they have carried out during the previous licensing period. Builders will be permitted to build to a certain height. That’s a variation from the current system where pretty much anyone could build a skyscraper if they wanted. If a builder has a license to build a 3 level dwelling, but the demand from customers during the previous period was only for single level dwellings, then the builder will have to jump through a lot more hoops (have attended the appropriate seminars etc) to be permitted to construct 3 level dwellings during the next license cycle.

    What could well happen is that the licensed practitioners could end up controlling the rate of construction within a region. A practitioner who is certified to assess concrete footings (for example) might only be in an area one day a week, so developers and builders may work together more to ensure that the right practitioner is available when the projects need them.

  9. Hype O'Thermia

    What you say, Phil, indicates that licensed practitioners will be gate-keepers, far too powerful i.e. able to cost the actual builder >> client a lot of extra $$. Thus able to command fees not unlike blackmail in scale.
    As you say, for the one-man or small scale building company there’s a lot of seminars etc taking time (and fees) out of their earning-week. Again, this adds to the potential for building within the law to be out of contention for many people. My pick, my hope, is that these silly laws will be ignored wholesale, to the point where finding a fully compliant 2nd hand house is like finding a chicken with a full set of caries-free teeth. Some laws won’t go away till they are shown conclusively to be regarded with scornful ignore.

  10. Phil

    That’s right, everything will hinge around the licensed practitioners. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes down. Large companies like Naylors, etc, will be able to have their own practitioners, because their variety of work will allow for people to gain, and retain, the necessary credentials. I suspect that they may well offer those key people out on an hourly basis. It may also lead to residential dwelling work being broken up into specialist contract portions, as happens in Australia. NZ builders have always been sought after in Australia as they are trained across the entire construction process, whereas their Australian trained counterparts can only work on certain areas. Many Australian building sites resemble Grand Central station at rush hour. I do agree with having a process which monitors the quality of construction work. Actually, I thought we already had a process and that process was known as Building Inspectors.

    As mentioned earlier, designers and project managers will also be restricted to certain levels of competancy. A one person “work from home” architectural draughtsperson will no longer be able to design whatever they want, even if their design is perfectly sound. Ditto for anyone wanting to supervise the construction of a building. So there might be a lot of juggling around of work to ensure that a designer or supervisor deals with enough of a certain level of work in order to retain their accreditation. A top designer who spends their year drawing up garages and carports could run the risk of having their approved level of design limited to that level for the following year.

    The concept is fine, but it could be a bit like using a sledgehammer to get rid of an ant problem.

  11. Elizabeth

    ### February 20, 2012 – 6:28pm
    Introduction of building scheme set to cause issues
    From 1 March 2012, the Government is introducing a scheme in which all restricted building work must be carried out by a licensed building practitioner. However, local building authorities are concerned the change has not been well advertised to inform homeowners or tradespeople.

  12. Hype O'Thermia

    More pointlessness. More costs added yet no guarantee of quality, remember the buildings with no-threshhold balconies and decks, monolithic cladding, approved-treatment timber framing and no flashings were in the main not designed by the tradesmen.

  13. Phil

    Exactly. The main problem behind the leaky buildings was a flawed change in the Building Code and NZ Standard, coupled with the introduction of private Building Inspectors which confused the issue of liability. The second part of that sounds a little worryingly like the incoming changes.

    If it were just a case of dodgy builders then it wouldn’t have suddenly popped up around the country at the same time, and then stopped just as quickly several years later.

    The article still isn’t entirely accurate. The licensed person doesn’t have to physically hammer in the nails. They just have to be on site at the time the nails are being hammered.

  14. Hype O'Thermia

    And they have to be there when the reinforcing is put in place but with a bit of “management” won’t notice that half of it has been taken out after hours to use on another job…. and so on. An early start with the concrete pour and nobody’s the wiser.

  15. Elizabeth

    ### Last updated 05:00 17/03/2012
    Owners accountable for DIY structural work
    By Catherine Harris
    New legislation will mean hardcore do-it-yourselfers can continue to do structural work to their own homes, as long as they take official responsibility for it. An exemption has been made to the Building Amendment Bill No3, which came in this month to restrict certain building and design work to licensed builder “practitioners”. Building and Housing Minister Maurice Williamson said the “DIY” exemption would allow homeowners to build or renovate their homes, as long as they accepted their work would be noted on council records for future owners.

    Another aspect of the legislation – risk-based consenting – would be introduced when the industry was ready for it, Williamson said. Risk-based consenting will add steps to the consenting process if necessary, to match the risks of the project.

    Read more

  16. Elizabeth

    DCC open to idea, warns lots more work needed on proposal before council endorsement.

    ### ODT Online Thu, 24 Sep 2015
    Builders divided on idea they self-certify
    By John Lewis
    A government proposal to have builders self certify their own work has drawn reactions from Dunedin builders as diverse as a pile of wooden off cuts. Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith has asked his officials to consider expanding the present list of exemptions for gaining building consents, in a bid to allow licensed building practitioners to self certify certain types of building work.
    Read more

    • Hype O'Thermia

      My comment on ODT Online:
      There are excellent honest builders. There are well-intentioned builders who aren’t all that competent, just as there are below-average cooks and dentists. And there are crooks, the ones who get the foundation prep signed off then whip the reinforcing off to use on the next building project. Pour concrete over where the reinforcing used to be – who’s to know (unless there’s an earthquake, or one of the tradies doesn’t keep his mouth shut)?

      Shonky builders take the money and run overseas. Or wind up the company and start up under a new name. The risk of builders self-certifying their work does not end there. An excellent tradesman who worked for me off and on over several years had an accident resulting in severe brain injury. He’s never going to work again, and he’d never be able to explain what work he had done on a particular building – irrelevant in his case because he was both honest and very competent, but you see what I’m getting at? Could happen to anyone. Same with death which will happen to everyone, honest and crooked alike.

      The point of certification by a competent enduring authority – not an individual – is that the authority is still there then the builder is no longer around. The authority can be council, government or professional association to which all practitioners have to belong and pay into a fidelity fund and insurance.

      There has been a trend to privatising risk. At the same time permit and inspection fees have risen, delays add cost to the work, yet the certifying authority doesn’t guarantee its work!

      If the government is so keen to reduce costs it might like to look at the effective ban on building materials from overseas that meet or exceed codes for quality. This was exposed to the public on TV recently, the way competing products are kept out of our building supplies stores, so the one company that supplies the one brand has a virtual monopoly. Even plans are drawn up with those products named, instead of eg “Plasterboard, to these specified standards and qualities”. This change to competing products being available, would make a great difference to building costs without putting home-buyers at risk of costly disaster with nobody being held accountable.

      {Link: -Eds}

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