Compliance during building works can be difficult, particularly in existing buildings. The use of Alternative Solutions or Performance Solutions is now very common – but what are they?
Performance-Based Solutions are part of a building approval process, used when certifying new building works. There are also commonly referred to by some people as a ‘Dispensation’, ‘Dispo’, ‘Determination’ ‘Exemption’ or ‘Performance Assessment’.
The National Construction Code (NCC), which includes the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Volumes One and Two is a ‘performance-based’ building code.
As the BCA is ‘performance-based’, each section of the BCA has minimum levels of compliance which are mandatory – these are called the ‘Performance Requirements’.
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has stated that the use of a performance-based approach to compliance ‘provides practitioners with a strong degree of flexibility to determine the most appropriate means for demonstrating compliance with the relevant Performance Requirements’.
This, therefore, allows some level of creativity in how compliance (or a compliant building solution) can be achieved and could see the introduction of new materials, technologies or methodologies, which could also see some efficiencies, better outcomes and cost savings, whilst still meeting the relevant Performance Requirement.
Methods of providing a compliant building solution are shown in the diagram below that has been adapted from the BCA. There are three methods to achieve compliance with the Performance Requirements:
- complying with the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ Provisions (or the prescriptive approach detailed within each part of the BCA);
- formulating an Alternative/Performance Solution (i.e. adopting a ‘performance-based approach’); or
- a combination of both of the above.
Compliance with the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions is easier as these building solutions are all detailed within the prescriptive pages of the BCA and will be deemed to comply with the relevant Performance Requirements when adhered to.
If a performance-based approach is adopted to achieve compliance it must be developed for acceptance by the building surveyor/building certifier.
An ‘Alternative Solution’ has been defined as ‘a building solution which complies with the Performance Requirements other than by satisfying the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions of the BCA.’
A simple example of an ‘Alternative Solution’ is automation of a hinged leaf door. This undoubtedly provides a better building solution and provides a greater level of accessibility for users of a building (including those with mobility limitations such as reduced hand dexterity, those using a mobility aid such as a wheelchair or a walking frame, amputees etc.). This design solution does not ‘fit’ in with the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions and is not an option provided in AS1428.1. Therefore, it is an ‘Alternative Solution’ that must be developed and documented to ensure that it complies with the relevant Performance Requirements.
The BCA details ‘Assessment Methods‘ that can be used to confirm compliance, however to ensure compliance with the Access to Premises Standards the use of Expert Judgement alone should be avoided for access related issues.
More information on preparing ‘Alternative Solutions’ is provided here.
For information on Section 160B applications to the Building Appeals Board at the Victorian Building Authority please contact Lee.
By Lee Wilson, a Disability Access Consultant / DDA Consultant, who is Building Surveying and Performance-Based Building and Fire Codes Qualified. Based in Melbourne, Victoria