Evaluating the Feasibility of Implementing a Risk-based Inspection Scheme by Building Consent Authorities in New Zealand
Samasoni, Jeff Clement
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The New Zealand residential construction industry is characterised by escalating building costs coupled with low productivity. The building consenting process is suggested as an aspect that requires improvement, and which could improve efficiency in residential construction industry. Current consenting processes are complicated and long drawn with pressure on Building Consent Authorities (BCAs) to deliver a more streamline approach to the process. This situation is exacerbated by current demands for housing as a result of migration, rebuilding programmes and surges in economic and population growth. Government has embarked on a policy shift that would make the construction industry more accountable for their work, with less reliance on BCAs. The current study investigates the building consenting process, and evaluates the feasibility of implementing a risk-based regulatory model in the form of a risk-based inspection scheme by BCAs in New Zealand. To achieve this aim, the study employed a mixed method approach involving questionnaire surveys and semi-structured interviews with key construction stakeholders. Data gathered were analysed and synthesised and the research findings were validated using subject matter expert interviews. The investigation covered six regions Auckland, Canterbury, Central North Island, Southern, Midlands and Cook Strait regions, providing true representation of the population of construction stakeholders throughout New Zealand. It was found that the New Zealand building inspection process contained bottlenecks, leading to a plethora of knock-on effects on industry practice. The booking of inspections, regulatory inspection numbers, excessive documentation, upskilling of Licenced Building Practitioners, resourcing Building Consent Authorities were contributing to the bottlenecks in the building consent process. Further, there was a poor understanding of risk-based regulations that have been introduced into consenting system. This is attributed to poor education and skill levels, inadequate quality assurance processes, and loose implementation of the legislation on risk-based models. However, the feasibility study concludes with recommendations from this study, that risk-based inspection that once designed, piloted and supported well could be fully implemented as a Building Consent Authorities tool in New Zealand. The study recommends for government to lead the full implementation of risk-based inspections with the support of stakeholders. A national framework which sets a minimum qualification based on building regulations and building code compliance with on-going upskilling is required for the whole construction sector. Implementing risk-based models within building regulations will address bottleneck pressures and improve the current productivity in the New Zealand residential construction sector. This research contributes to existing knowledge in the area of risk-based building regulations. In particular, the study makes contribution to risk-based models as building regulatory tools in the house building sector in New Zealand.