The Building Code and Compliance, does my stair comply?

Today, July 24th 2019 we received an updated copy of our Certificate Of Accreditation demonstrating enzie’s compliance with the 2018 National Construction Code of Australia (NCC). The updated certificate was warmly received by enzie as the last update was nearly 20 years ago. The reissuing of the certificate got us all reflecting on the compliance question around building spiral stairs in Australia.

“Are they legal?”

One of the most common objections that we come across when spiral stair are proposed is “arn’t they illegal?”. Sometimes the statement is more definitive that that, it’ not uncommon to have someone tell you  “they are illegal”, and the closer you get to the North Shore of Sydney, the more frequent that you hear this kind of statement. Of course enzie isn’t selling an illegal product. All well designed spiral stairs comply with the building code. As the industry leader enzie was involved with the drafting of the then BCA in 1996. The “Deem to satisfy” section of the BCA on spiral stairs was in large parts based on enzie’s Data-sheets at the time.

The reason why some people, especially in Sydney, think spiral stairs are illegal goes back a long way. There is a comprehensive history on the Building codes in Australia on the ABCD website. In short in the early 20th century the trying to navigate the various codes was an exercise fraught with challenges. In the 1950’s States and Territories started to establish more uniform technical building requirements. However, States and Territories delegated their primary responsibilities to municipal councils.  This resulted is rules based on local needs, or wants which meant in some area’s Spiral Stairs were deemed as non compliant. Sadly a result of this was people putting stairs in regardless and with no eye to complying to any rules they built stairs that were steep, uncomfortable and in some cases dangerous.

By the In the 1990’s things started to change. A National approach was needed. The ABCB was established to draft a new national code. Unlike previous codes this one was nation and performance based.

What is a Performance Based Code?

In short a performance based code sets out to meet certain measurable or predictable performance requirements, such as energy efficiency, without a prescriptive method by which to attain certain specific requirements. This is in contrast to previous prescribed building codes, which mandate specific construction practises, such as timber batten size, distance between them and number of screws required to secure them. This flexible approach provides the ability to develop tools and methods to evaluate the entire life cycle of the building process, from the design, to procurement, through construction and the evaluation of results. It is an inherently more flexible system that can stay up to date without the need to rewrite the code as new technology and techniques become available.

But how do I know if a certain product complies?

Introducing the “Deem To Satisfy” (DTS). The Building code does still have a prescriptive component to it called the”Deem To Satisfy”. The  DTS is a  set recipe of what, when and how to do something. The DTS outlines, materials, components, design factors, and construction methods that, if used, are deemed to meet the Performance Requirements.

How does the enzie spiral staircase comply?

Most of enzie’s design meet the “Deem To Satisfy” section of the NCCS.  IN addition all of enzie stairs have been assessed by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee and are deemed to comply with the NCCS. This certificate is a handy tool to be used to quickly demonstrate compliance. It’s a quick and easy tool to counter someone who confidently tells you that “they’re illegal!”

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