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Proposed Building Code Update To Ensure New Buildings Better Protect The Safety Of New Zealanders

MBIE has opened consultation on proposed changes to the Building Code acceptable solutions and verification methods which cover plumbing and drainage, protection from fire, and structural stability of hollow-core floors.

“As New Zealand’s central building regulator, we consult on updates to the Building Code to ensure we are keeping pace with innovation, current construction methods and the needs of our modern society,” says Dave Gittings, Manager Building Performance and Engineering.

“We update the Building Code every year to support New Zealand to deliver safe, healthy and durable buildings. This year we are looking to update some key areas which will help make new builds even safer and healthier for our whānau and communities.”

The proposed changes for plumbing and drainage look to limit the allowable lead content in certain plumbing products, reduce the risk of hot water scalding injuries, and protect potable water supplies.

“We want to improve the safety and reliability of plumbing systems so that New Zealanders can have greater confidence that water from a tap is healthy and safe.

“While products which contaminate drinking water do not comply with the Building Code, we are proposing to reduce the maximum allowable lead content for certain plumbing products to align with changes being made in Australia. This is the next logical step to reduce the presence of lead in our built environment. Health officials recommend that where exposure to lead can be reduced, it should be reduced, and we want to know whether New Zealanders support this change,” Mr Gittings says.

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“We know that most tap water scalds take place in the bathroom at home and that those most at risk from scalds are infants, young children, elderly and disabled people. Maximum hot water delivery temperatures in New Zealand are higher than in other countries which leads to an increased risk of tap water scalds. This is why we are proposing to lower the maximum hot water delivery temperatures for most buildings from 55°C to 50°C. We want to ensure water temperatures are safe for all New Zealanders, including the most vulnerable,” says Mr Gittings.

“As part of this year’s update, we are also proposing to improve the level of fire safety for our buildings.

“As the demand for multi-unit dwellings continues to increase, we are looking to support this type of construction with simple solutions for the associated fire risks.

"The proposed changes also include bringing fire safety system requirements in line with the latest industry standards to ensure the compliance pathways reflect modern design practices.

“This includes proposing a simple solution to improving fire safety by requiring interconnected smoke alarms throughout new homes. This will help to ensure all occupants in that home are notified in the event of fire, no matter where in the house it occurs,” Mr Gittings says.

More information on these and other changes, including proposed changes to the compliance pathway for the use of hollow-core floor systems in new buildings, is available for download on the MBIE website. Submissions on the consultation can also be made from this page.

Consultation on the proposed amendments to the Building Code runs from 2 May to 1 July 2022.

Final decisions on the changes will be made later this year.

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