A crash course in building compliance: Alternative Solutions, Performance Solutions and DtS
By Will Marshall - Director of Performance Based Consulting
Building compliance can be confusing and ever-changing. With the National Construction Code (NCC) being updated regularly and clunky, formal and jargon-filled documentation practices, it’s no wonder that project managers, architects and developers are confused about what makes a building ‘compliant’. So, here is a crash course in building compliance, in plain and simple English.
Within the NCC, there are two main types of information: Performance Requirements and Deemed-to-Satisfy (DtS) provisions
The Performance Requirement outlines exactly what a component of a building must do in order to be considered safe and compliant. For a building to be compliant, it MUST be proven to comply with all relevant Performance Requirements.
The actual clause in the NCC are then what we call the DtS provisions. Acting as a guide to using the NCC document and achieving the Performance Requirements, the DtS provisions outline one way to achieve the Performance Requirements.
However, no single guide could ever be expected to cover all combinations of variations, eventualities and possibilities when it comes to a construction project, particularly when we factor in new construction techniques, site constraints and user, client or architectural requirements. Besides, if we want to create innovative, resourceful and efficient buildings, there needs to be flexibility and options that cater for a wide range of safety solutions. That’s where Performance Solutions come in.
Performance Solutions are the other way that developers, architects and project managers can achieve compliance with the Performance Requirements. Performance Solutions need to be carried out by a suitably qualified engineer, and they prove that a design still complies with the relevant Performance Requirement(s), without following the ‘guide’ set out with the DtS provisions.
Whilst Performance Solutions do require developers to engage a specialist engineer, they allow for more innovative and creative design, cost and time efficiency and in my experience can be more suitable for building owners and users. To ensure Performance Solutions are assessed and documented correctly, there are methodologies that have been developed, such as those set-out in the International Fire Engineering Guidelines (IFEG). Part of this methodology includes you need to make sure ensuring that the documentation that proves demonstrates the solutions’ compliance with the Performance Requirement is included in the performance solution report.
When you talk about Performance Solutions, you’ll undoubtedly hear someone mention Alternative Solutions or even “Alt Sol”. This is simply another term for Performance Solution. The Australian Building Codes Board (the Government body that makes the NCC) changed the terminology in the 2015 edition to remove the negative connotation associated with the word ‘Alternative’. Performance Solutions and DtS approaches have equal merit, and both meet the same, important Performance Requirements to ensure building users are safe. So, they wanted the language they used to reflect that.
Alternative Solution, Performance Solution…it’s all the same.
Within the construction industry, there is a lot of confusion about compliance, and what it takes to be and maintain compliance. We’re looking to change that. We’d love to answer some of your most pressing questions and demystify some of the subjects you find most confusing. So join the conversation and leave your questions and suggestions here.