This page belongs to: Premises Standards Review 2021

Opportunities for action

Regulatory reform

Action 1

Investigate the costs and benefits, and whether there is a case for reform, in the key areas impacting the lives of people living with disability.

The Australian Government, in consultation with the Australian Building Codes Office and the states and territories, undertake regulatory impact analysis on:

  • whether accessible car-parking ratios are adequate
  • where automatic doors are used, including their use in accessible toilet facilities.
  • the adequacy of dimensions of openings and thoroughfares in the Premises Standards and the opportunity to align with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards).

This work will provide evidence for any future changes to the Premises Standards and the National Construction Code (NCC).

Issues this action will address

Stakeholders frequently raised 3 issues as having a large impact on the daily lives of people living with disability:

  • accessible car-parking ratios
  • placement of automatic doors and their use in accessible toilet facilities
  • the adequacy of dimensions of openings and thoroughfares, including how the 80th and 90th percentile wheelchair dimensions are used.

Addressing these technical issues could significantly affect requirements in the NCC and the building industry. A thorough technical and policy assessment is needed to understand how any changes to the Premises Standards and NCC would impact stakeholders.

These issues were raised during the 2016 review of the Premises Standards and identified for possible resolution by this review. Participants confirmed that these issues remain priority areas for possible regulatory reform.

Figure 11: Percentage of submissions discussing issues associated with Action 1

Car-parking ratios were raised in 10% of all submissions. Some submissions also raised continuous paths of travel from parking spaces to buildings.

Stakeholders mentioned automated doors in 15.6% of submissions. 3.6% of submissions mentioned automated doors on toilet facilities.

13.6% of respondents raised:

  • issues around the 80th and 90th percentile wheelchair dimensions
  • alignment with the Disability Transport Standards
  • clarification in the AS1428 suite of documents on wheelchair dimensions
  • a continuous path of travel more broadly.

The issue of 80th and 90th percentile wheelchair dimensions was seen as critical for the whole of journey concept.

More than 30% of submissions from the disability sector raised car parking, automatic doors and the dimensions of openings and thoroughfares. Only 0.8% of submissions from the building industry touched on these 3 issues.

This assessment is fundamental to ensuring the Premises Standards are still meeting these objectives.

Information sharing

Action 2a

Update the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Guideline on the application of the Premises Standards to ensure people understand their rights and responsibilities under the Premises Standards.

The AHRC’s Guideline on the application of the Premises Standards is the guidance used most by the building profession and people living with disability.

The opportunity exists for the AHRC, in conjunction with the Australian Government, to review and update the guideline to ensure it is:

  • up to date
  • relevant to stakeholders who want to understand their rights and responsibilities.

This will lead to improved access to premises.

Action 2b

Develop guidance to address new and emerging issues identified by stakeholders during the review, which impact their access to buildings or ability to comply with the Premises Standards.

There is an opportunity for the Australian Government, in consultation with people with disability, the AHRC and other relevant stakeholders, to identify, prioritise and develop guidance. This may include:

  • guidance on standardisation of signage requirements, luminance contrasting and emerging wayfinding solutions, which may form the basis of nationally consistent standards in future.
  • information to improve awareness of people's rights and responsibilities under the Premises Standards, including compliance with the standards and how to lodge and resolve complaints.
  • the best approach for handling issues related to heritage-listed and older buildings that may not be in the scope of the Premises Standards.
  • best-practice advice and checklists for procurement specialists and employers to improve their awareness of, and compliance with, the Premises Standards
  • guidance on the intersecting issues between the Premises Standards and Transport Standards.

Issues actions 2a and 2b will address

Over 25% of all submissions, and half of submissions made by the building industry, identified the need for new or updated guidance on rights and responsibilities under the Premises Standards. The AHRC’s Guideline on the application of the Premises Standards was identified as a key document used by the building industry.

The NCC does not address fixtures and fittings in detail – it focuses on structural elements that are certified before the building is in use. However, the Premises Standards has scope to address fixtures and fittings. However there is no consensus among disability and building experts on many wayfinding issues, including:

  • signage requirements
  • luminance contrasting
  • other emerging wayfinding solutions.

The 2016 review of the Premises Standards identified the need for more work on these issues. Some progress has been made on these issues within Australian Standards, but there is no consensus.

The Australian Government, in conjunction with stakeholders, could oversee guidelines on signage requirements, luminance contrasting and other emerging wayfinding solutions. This could be used to inform issues in the Premises Standards, either by an Australian Standards process or through a future amendment to the Premises Standards.

Figure 12: Percentage of submissions discussing issues associated with Action 2

  • 4.4% of submissions mentioned inclusiveness
  • 6% of submissions mentioned consultation  
  • 6% of submissions mentioned hearing augmentation
  • 10.8% of submissions mentioned toilet accessibility
  • 11.2% of submissions mentioned luminance contrast
  • 12.4% of submissions mentioned old and heritage buildings
  • 12.7% of submissions mentioned auditing and enforcement
  • 14.7% of submissions mentioned compliant process
  • 15.1% of submissions mentioned signage
  • 25.9% of submissions mentioned guidance

Nearly 30% of submissions from the disability sector raised the need for:

  • guidance on lodging and resolving complaints
  • guidance on dealing with heritage-listed and older buildings
  • advice for employers and procurement specialists.

Some submissions also raised the importance of guidance to align the Premises Standards and Transport Standards. However, stakeholders said that alignment of these standards would not resolve all interpretation issues related to their implementation. Guidance would focus on helping people interpret and implement the standards where they intersect.

Action 3

Create a baseline assessment of premises to ensure that the effectiveness of the Premises Standards can be measured in the future.

The Premises Standards review process currently relies on people’s views of the standards’ effectiveness.

The opportunity exists for the Australian Government, along with the states and territories, to explore the best way to assess a representative sample of new buildings or building works.

This assessment would:

  • test the types of data available
  • identify data that could be collected to determine compliance with the Premises Standards.

This data would provide evidence for future reviews of the Premises Standards.

Issues action 3 will address

Assessing whether the Premises Standards are achieving their objectives is complicated without a way to measure compliance and non-compliance issues.

In 2009 the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs held an inquiry into the draft Premises Standards. It delivered a report recommending that a baseline study be done before reviewing the Premises Standards. The baseline study would develop measurements and understanding of the nature of compliance. It would also provide a way for future Premises Standards reviews to assess whether the standards were achieving their objectives.

During consultations, stakeholders raised concerns about the lack of data and information on non-compliance with the Premises Standards. Since all occupied buildings are certified, it is assumed they are also compliant with the Premises Standards. However, as the Building Confidence Report identifies, non-compliance occurs in certified buildings.

Premises Standards reviews currently rely on people’s views of the standards’ effectiveness. There are no established building metrics available to assess compliance and non-compliance. Without this data it is difficult to objectively measure trends in compliance and effectiveness.

State and territory enforcement and audit strategies vary, and building certifiers primarily check for compliance. Compliance with the Premises Standards has not been a focus of states and territories’ audit work to date. However, some states have indicated that future audit work would look at compliance with the Premises Standards.

In the meantime, there is very little data on compliance with the Premises Standards at all levels of government.

Over 25% of submissions raised the possibility of this assessment work contributing to future guidance. More than half of the submissions from the building industry emphasised the need for new or updated guidance.

Nearly 13% of all submissions raised concerns about the lack of auditing and enforcement outcomes related to the Premises Standards. Almost 30% of disability sector submissions discussed the need for better auditing and enforcement strategies.

Figure 13: Percentage of submissions discussing issues associated with Action 3

Further observations

Currently, the ability to establish a cross-government framework for data sharing is being investigated across governments. However, data collection for the Premises Standards is the primary issue.

The Australian Government, in conjunction with states and territories, should oversee a sample of new buildings or building work to inform future Premises Standards reviews. This will provide insights into compliance issues and inform future studies and decisions. The information and metrics could be made available to states, territories and building certifiers to inform their own audit strategies and certification processes.

Governance

Action 4a

Identify amendments to the Premises Standards to ensure consistency with Australian Standards.

The Australian Government amend the Premises Standards to reflect all recent updates to referenced Australian Standards.

Action 4b

Implement a process to more quickly align disability standards and the National Construction Code.

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, in consultation with the Australian Building Codes Office and Standards Australia, implement a process to ensure that the National Construction Code (NCC) and Premises Standards can adopt new or amended standards outside the 3-yearly NCC amendment cycle.

Issues these actions will address

This review identifies opportunities to amend the Premises Standards. Actions 4a and 4b will ensure that amendments to the Premises Standards occur in a timely manner and are reflected in the NCC as soon as possible.

Several Australian Standards referenced in the Premises Standards have recently been updated. The review recommends updating the Premises Standards with those changes to minimise the potential for misalignment. This will ensure that the Premises Standards, the Access Code and the NCC all reference the most current Australian Standards.

During this review, 7.6% of submissions raised the issue of necessary updates based on Australian Standards (see Figure 14). More submissions from the building industry discussed the significance of alignment between the Premises Standards and the Australian Standards compared to the disability sector. Amendments to the Premises Standards can go beyond referenced Australian Standards, such as amendments addressing adult accessible change facilities.

     

    Figure 14: Percentage of submissions discussing issues associated with Action 4

    • 4% of submissions mentioned state and territory legislations
    • 6% of submissions mentioned the Transport Standards  
    • 7.6% of submissions mentioned Australian Standards
    • 12.4% of submissions mentioned the National Construction Code

    A complete list of amendments is available in Appendix A.

    The Disability Standards, Australian Standards and the NCC are all updated at different times. This leads to inconsistency across these standards and causes confusion for stakeholders.

    The Premises Standards are reviewed every 5 years. Amending the Premises Standards review cycle in line with the NCC’s 3-yearly review cycle is not always practical. Updates to Australian Standards and the Transport Standards (which are referenced in the Premises Standards) may also occur at different intervals.

    A procedural amendment process is the most flexible method for the Australian Government to promptly address necessary updates. This would ensure consistency across:

    • the Premises Standards
    • Australian Standards
    • Transport Standards references contained within the Premises Standards
    • the NCC.

    The procedural amendment process is a mechanism to address issues that fall outside the NCC’s 3-yearly review cycle. Currently if the Premises Standards are updated soon after a review of the NCC, the Premises Standards and the NCC could be out of sync for up to 3 years.

    More than half of building industry and government stakeholders said that alignment issues between the NCC and Premises Standards caused significant concerns. These concerns were reflected in 12.4% of the 251 received submissions. This alignment issue also extends to the Transport Standards for 6% of submissions.

    Other issues raised include:

    • alignment between the Premises Standards and Australian Standards (7.6% of submissions)
    • alignment between the Premises Standards and state and territory legislation and standards (4% of submissions).