Consents and H1 — navigating the bumpy road ahead

David Kelly

RMBA chief executive David Kelly, along with other industry groups, has asked for a year’s extension to the transition period for the H1 Building Code changes, saying the November 2022 deadline will, among other issues, adversely impact the already increasing cost of building homes.

New Zealand’s economic outlook, and the impacts on our sector, continue to dominate the news headlines. As we discussed last time, much of this is out of our control.

But there are also some areas where we can adjust to improve our sector’s ability to build the homes and buildings New Zealand needs.

We are a key contributor to New Zealand’s economy, and we are advocating to ensure we have the best conditions to withstand the choppy waters ahead.

We believe system-wide change is required to address the issues facing our sector but, in the meantime, we need to also address specific issues which can provide some short-term respite.

Two that we have been focused on recently include consenting, and thermal efficiency measures raised in the H1/AS1 changes to the building code.

Lumpy consents continue to cause significant delays

We continue to receive reports across the membership regarding the lumpy quality of consenting processes.

Delays across most or all regions are adding further stress to the already challenging environment. It is time for the Government to step up and address this issue.

We’re supportive of the current review of the wider consenting process that the MBIE is conducting. Most players in the industry would agree the consenting system needs to be improved. It needs to be more efficient, easier to use, and should allocate risk more appropriately and in a more responsive fashion.

We have made the importance of these issues clear in our high-level discussions with the MBIE.

We support a full review and system change because band aids on the current system will not provide the level of change required.

There is a lot of work going into new technologies that can support quality assurance throughout the build process and make a more efficient consenting system. These should be incorporated into the system as a matter of urgency.

We know the cost of consenting delays is significant. On average, our builders have reported that a delay of just one week incurs a cost of almost $9500.

Annual costs of almost $100 million

We estimate that our members are incurring costs of almost $100 million annually. And that doesn’t consider the cost to home owners who need to stay in alternative accommodation for longer.

We understand that it will take some time before the MBIE’s review and other work makes any system-level change that will materially ease the pressure points in the consenting process to make it more responsive.

In the meantime, it comes down to communication. We encourage you to work closely with your council contacts so that you are prepared, and understand requirements.

Investing time in these relationships can really help. Then it is also about communicating with your home owners, so they understand the process and what to expect.

Changes needed long term, but not right now

The RMBA also wants to update readers on an issue where we’ve made strong representations to government on your behalf.

As members will recall, the transition period for the H1/AS1 changes to the building code will end in November 2022.

The RMBA, in concert with NZBC, Offsite NZ and Business NZ, have jointly written to the Ministers of Finance, Housing, and Building and Construction respectively, to request the transition period be extended for a further year given the acute challenges currently being faced across the sector.

While we support changes to the Building Code that result in better homes for New Zealanders, we reflected in our representations the strong feedback we received from our respective members and the wider industry that implementing the changes this year will cause extreme pressure to our already strained and stretched construction industry.

We pointed out that H1 insulation changes will:

• adversely impact the already increasing cost of building homes.

• negatively impact the already severely disrupted supply chain.

• provide too short a time given to current manufacturing methods to meet updated H1 requirements, especially for windows.

• negatively impact consumer confidence in the residential building industry.

• further dampen demand on the back of interest rate rises, more restricted credit, and economic uncertainty.

• exacerbate mental well-being issues which are already of great concern to us in the sector.

While acknowledging their importance for the government’s climate change response and its commitment to improving build quality and performance, we emphasised that there is only so much that can be asked of the building sector at this time.

The current timetable for new regulations is, in our view, a bridge too far, so we have asked for a year’s extension to ease one pressure being faced.

We will continue to provide updates on this important issue.

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