In an ever-evolving world, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest changes and developments in the construction and home modification industry. A significant shift is currently underway in Queensland, as the National Construction Code (NCC) undergoes a transformation to prioritise energy efficiency and more relevantly to us, accessibility.
While these changes haven’t filtered down south just yet, it’s essential to recognise that these standards will eventually apply nationwide. In this blog post, our NDIS builders in Victoria will explore the upcoming NCC changes, discuss their potential implications, and highlight how we can provide solutions in this evolving landscape.
Understanding the NCC changes
The National Construction Code is the set of standards that guide construction of almost all buildings throughout Australia, setting minimum requirements for safety, health, energy-efficiency and accessibility.
Every three years, the NCC is updated based on input from the construction industry, researches, community groups, and more, all with the end goal of making Australian homes more comfortable and safer. Some of the key NCC changes to be adopted include:
- Enhanced accessibility standards: The NCC changes introduce more stringent accessibility requirements for new buildings and renovations, aiming to make homes more inclusive for people with disability and the elderly
- Energy efficiency upgrades: The revised NCC focuses on reducing energy consumption by implementing sustainable building practices and materials. This not only benefits the environment but also lowers energy costs for homeowners
- Compliance requirements: Builders and contractors must now adhere to these updated standards, ensuring that new construction and modifications meet the NCC’s accessibility and energy efficiency criteria
Each of these play an important role in improving the quality of housing nation-wide. As NDIS builders however, we’re naturally most interested in the first category!
NCC changes 2023: how the updates affect accessibility legal requirements in Victoria
The NCC changes were proposed in 2022 and formally adopted in 2023; however, most states and territories have delayed their full implementation until 2024 due to concerns around labour shortages and the cost of materials.
Queensland will be the first to adopt the changes, with the new accessibility taking effect from October 1 2023, with new energy efficiency standards following in May 2024. However, it won’t be long until they roll out across other states and territories, with Victoria expected to complete the transition in 2024.
The new standards will bring about a significant shift in the way homes are built in the future. While they may not have taken effect just yet, if you’re planning a building or renovation project it may be something to start considering.
What parts of the NCC are mandatory? Is accessibility a legal requirement now? How to make a new home NCC compliant
The livable housing design requirements are outlined in Volumes One and Two of the NCC. Specifically, the Standard for Livable Housing Design is the document that outlines technical details, along with explanatory information describing why the standard has been implemented and how to follow them correctly.
The incoming standard mandates a range of new requirements going forward:
Providing step-free access to the home
For many people who live with disability, entryways can present significant barriers. Going forward, new homes will need to include at least one step-free entries. This can mean designing entryways that don’t need steps or with wheelchair access ramp installation (though Queenslander-style homes are exempted).
In addition to entrances, the National Construction Code changes also mandate step-free access for bathrooms and showers, as well as at least one toilet on the ground level.
Leaving more room for mobility aids
Many people with disability rely on mobility aids such as wheelchairs to navigate. Unfortunately, most existing houses don’t offer enough space to effectively use these aids.
As such, the NCC now sets out mandatory sizes for doorways, corridors, toilets, and bathrooms, making life easier for people with disability to navigate their own homes. For example, at least one entryway must be at least 820mm wide to allow space for wheelchairs and other mobility aids.
NCC accessibility standards targeting bathrooms and showers
The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house – according to research, the bathroom accounts for over 200,000 injuries each year in America alone.
As such, it’s little wonder the National Construction Code changes single out bathrooms and toilets specifically with a range of bathroom and toilet-specific requirements. This can include reinforced walls which are strong enough to retrofit bathroom accessibility modifications like bathroom grab rails, or mandating stepless shower and toilet access.
What types of buildings do the livable housing design guidelines in the NCC apply?
The livable housing design requirements apply to all newly built Class 1a and Class 2 buildings.
- Class 1a buildings: houses, including detached houses, row houses, terraces, townhouses and villas
- Class 2 buildings: apartment buildings and flats. For Class 2 buildings, the livable housing design requirements will only apply inside the apartments. Section D of NCC Volume One and the Access to Premises Standards will continue to cover common areas
That said, with these new features set to become the standard, it may be worth considering modifying your home extension project accordingly. Not only will it make your home more accessible, but it can also help maintain value as people come to expect these types of features.
What NCC codes apply to renovations and extensions?
If someone wants to extend or renovate an existing home, they’ll need to follow their state/territory requirements for whether or not the works need to comply with the new NCC. In Victoria for example, renovation projects and extensions are required to adhere to the new NCC when:
- Renovations consist of alterations to 50% or more of the building’s existing volume
- Extensions take up 25% or more of the existing floor area
In cases where adhering to the NCC is unfeasible, builders and homeowners may apply for an exemption from the parts of the code which may not be achievable. Furthermore, any work approved before adoption of the new National Construction Code changes won’t need to be re-approved.
The new NCC accessibility standards set the baseline. But what if you need more?
While the new NCC accessibility standards have been welcomed by disability advocates, it’s important to remember the liveable housing design guidelines in the NCC are the legal baseline. The NCC sets the minimum standard, which may not be enough for some people who live with disability.
Fortunately, our team of NDIS approved builders have a long-standing reputation for delivering top-notch accessibility solutions in Melbourne and Victoria. If you require additional home modifications in addition to what the NCC requires, we can help.
We have experience on all sorts of accessibility modifications, ranging from simple jobs like handrail installation to complete renovations. Additionally, we also consult during the design and planning phase, bringing our disability construction experience to projects big and small.
Our NDIS home modifications process
Here’s how the company we’re prepared to excel in this changing environment:
- Expertise in accessibility: Our team has lived experience with disability. We understand the importance of an accessible home and have a unique understanding of what it’s like to live with disability.
- Energy-efficient solutions: We understand the importance of energy efficiency in modern homes. We can integrate sustainable materials and practices into their modifications, helping homeowners save on energy costs and reduce their environmental footprint.
- Compliance assurance: With the evolving NCC standards, compliance is key. Our NDIS builders stay updated with regulatory changes, ensuring that all projects meet or exceed the required accessibility and energy efficiency standards.
- Builder partnerships: Restore Home Modifications is a valuable, accessibility contractor for builders in Victoria. As accessibility becomes an integral part of construction, builders can rely on Restore’s expertise to meet NCC requirements seamlessly.
If you or someone you know requires NDIS home modifications across Melbourne and Victoria to improve accessibility and independence, contact Restore Home Modifications. Our dedicated team is ready to support you every step of the way. You can reach us by phone at 1300 333 746, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the contact form on our website.