Introduction to the Building Control Amendment Act 2020
As reported in local newspapers, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has received reports of almost 30 incidents of falling façade elements most involving wear and tear of façade materials or connections. In an attempt to address this and several other incidents involving lifts in buildings, Parliament has on 6 March 2020 passed the Building Control Amendment Act, which aims amongst other things to improve façade maintenance standards.
The amendments have yet to come into operation as they are at the time of this article pending notification by the Minister in the government Gazette. This article aims to take a brief look at the impact on building owners, entrants and the public at large.
One of the most notable features of the amendments is the requirement for periodic inspection of the façade of buildings, which is in addition to the existing requirement for periodic structural inspection. The amendments state that the Commissioner of Building Control can notify owners to inspect the façade of a building and to produce the report thereof. Inspection must be completed by a qualified person, such as an architect or professional engineer, and can be required upon the building reaching 20 years of age and every 7 years after the first inspection.
This need for periodic inspection will apply to all buildings with the two general exceptions:
Detached houses, semi-detached houses, terraced or linked houses which are used solely as a place of residence and temporary buildings; or
Buildings which are 13 metres or lower.
Based on the inspection, the qualified person will then produce a report which is forwarded to the Commissioner of Building Control. If any recommendations are made in the report, to prevent the occurrence or potential occurrence of collapse of the façade of the building, the owner is then obligated to carry out the recommended works.
Another significant feature of the amendment is that it reinforces and highlights that it is the obligation of the building owner or the person who has charge and control of the management and maintenance of the exterior feature of a building to ensure that the exterior is kept in good maintenance.
For instance, the amendments make it an offence to fail to keep or maintain the exterior feature in such manner as to be securely fixed to the building. Furthermore, the amendments presume that in the absence of proof, if an exterior feature or part thereof collapses or falls, the responsible person has failed in such duty. The amendments even make it the duty of the person responsible to report safety incidents, in respect of any death or injury caused an exterior feature, to the Commissioner of Building Control.
As a result of the amendments, prudent building owners and managers, in particular of commercial properties, should be aware that in the event of any collapse or falling exterior feature (or part thereof), it would be in their interests to ascertain the cause and ensure that they retain the necessary evidence to show that they are in compliance with the Building Control Act and its amendments.
Hoh Law Corporation
17 August 2020