Updates to builders and design practitioners working on class 2 buildings

2021 has bought about a lot of changes to not only our everyday lives but also to the building industry.

Specifically, to Class 2 buildings like domestic apartment buildings or buildings containing two or more sole-occupancy units where people live above, beside, or below each other. Also including single-storey attached dwellings with a common space below, such as a carpark.

The changes are starting with class 2 buildings. Class 2 buildings are the highest priority right now, but the NSW Government will expand the reforms to other classes of construction in the future.

This means certain designs need to be compliant with the Building Code of Australia and other relevant standards before any construction can start, and declared designs need to be lodged on the NSW Planning Portal.

So from 1st July 2021 onwards, all practitioners need to register their class 2 buildings, and builders can only use those approved, compliant designs.

There are two new registration schemes for class 2-related work: one for Professional Engineers and one for designers and builders.

Why are these changes being made?

These changes are just the beginning of the NSW Government’s response to the Shergold Weir Building Confidence Report that is committed to strengthening compliance in the building industry.

These changes are being made to make sure all buildings are compliant, safe, and secure as well as maintaining confidence in the building sector as a trustworthy, customer-focused industry. 

Practitioners are required to rectify design issues before construction begins – saving everyone involved time and money, and avoiding disappointment and stress for customers. This will also ensure that better data is captured throughout the building life cycle.

Who needs to register?

Design and Building Practitioners working on class 2 buildings, or buildings with a class 2 element, need to register to declare certain designs or building work, and lodge documents on the NSW Planning Portal.

This affects you if you meet ALL of the requirements below:

Both individuals and organisations can register as Design, Principal Design, or Building Practitioner under the Compliance Declaration Scheme.

Registration lasts one, three, or five years from the date you lodge your application on Service NSW.

Who doesn’t need to register?

The good news is not every person on the worksite needs to register, only the person who'll be declaring or lodging documents needs to register.

For example, one designer might sign off on designs from a team of designers, which means only the person signing off the design needs to register, not all the designers involved in the project.

Similarly, only the head Building Practitioner or principal contractor needs to register to make a building declaration, not every subcontractor and tradie.

What do you need to do before you register?

Before you register, you must complete and pass two online learning modules on the Construct NSW Digital Learning Platform:

Keep your module certificates as proof of completion, you will need these when you register.

How to register

Apply to register on the Service NSW website.

Remember - you need to register before you declare or lodge a document.

To register, you will need:

  • to be working on class 2 buildings or buildings that include a class 2 part; if not, you don’t need to register
  • proof of identity
  • a police check – issued within 4 months from when you submit your application (Name and Date of Birth check only)
  • a copy of your degree, postgraduate degree, diploma, or NVR* course certificate and/or transcript
  • to provide certain details about the experience you are relying on and will need the name and contact details of a referee(s) who can validate this experience.
  • if you hold an existing licence in your field of work, make sure those licence details are up to date and match your proof of identity documents

* National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011

Once your application is approved, your details will be listed on the Public Register for Design and Building Practitioners.

Application Process

Can you work while your application is being processed?

If you applied for registration before 31st December 2021, you are 'deemed' to be registered and you’ll receive a registration ID and you can keep working while your application is being assessed. If your application is successful, your registration ID will stay the same and you can continue working.

If you apply for registration after 31 December 2021, you will need to stop declaring and/or lodging documents while you wait for your application to be assessed and approved.

What does this mean for your current projects?

If you’ve started building work before 1st July 2021, the new rules do NOT apply to the work that has started on that construction or complying development certificate. However, the designs you have been using still need to be lodged.

However, if you haven’t started building work under a particular complying development certificate or construction certificate before 1st July 2021, this new registration scheme will apply. This applies regardless of whether your construction certificate or complying development certificate was issued before or after 1st July 2021.

Any subsequent building work started on another construction certificate after 1st July 2021 will need to comply with new rules. Although, there are transitional requirements for building works that commence in the first 12 months of the scheme.

How long do you have to get registered?

From 1st July 2021, the lodgement of declared designs for class 2 buildings (including staffed development projects) is a new requirement under the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020.

The new rules mean building work can only start when all ‘regulated designs’ have been declared for compliance with standards and lodged online via the NSW Planning Portal.

The good news is there is a transition period allowed, the transitional period ends on 1st July 2022.

How to maintain registration

Once registered, Design and Building Practitioners have new obligations to maintain their registration.

This new registration scheme is part of a reform program to restore confidence in the residential construction industry and make sure that apartments being built are trustworthy.

These new obligations are:

  • Code of practice
  • CPD
  • Record keeping
  • Insurance

Code of practice

Design and Building Practitioners must comply with a Code of practice that sets out required professional and ethical standards.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Design and Building Practitioners must complete at least three CPD hours each year. Written records, such as certificates of completion or records of attendance, should be kept as evidence in case of inspection.

Record Keeping and Insurance

You’ll need to keep records in a form that can be easily accessible for inspection for at least 10 years, even if you retire or stop being a registered practitioner.

Mandatory insurance requirements will start on the 1st July 2022. Between 1st July 2021 and 30th June 2022, there is a transitional period for insurance requirements. While adequate insurance is recommended, it won’t be mandated as a condition of registration during the transitional period.

  • From 1 July 2021 building work on Class 2 buildings cannot commence until regulated designs and design compliance declarations are lodged on NSW Planning Portal.
  • The following registered practitioners will be required to make compliance declarations in relation to the regulated designs:
    • Design Practitioners – design compliance declarations;
    • Principal Design Practitioners - principal compliance declarations; and
    • Where there is no Principal Design Practitioner, a Building Practitioner – a building compliance declaration.
  • Class 2 Building work commenced prior to 1 July 2021 – declarations are not required to be made by a practitioner however the building practitioner must lodge on the NSW Planning Portal, a copy of all designs relied on to carry out the building work before applying for an Occupation Certificate.