Celebrating 21 years of the Performance-Based Code in Australia

The Holmes Fire team is celebrating together with the Australian Building Code Board (ABCB) to mark 21 years since the release of the first performance-based building code in Australia.

After a long era of only prescriptive based building codes, the ABCB launched the performance-based BCA (BCA96) in October 1996, introducing overarching Performance Requirements, enabling bespoke building solutions to be implemented, as long as they could be demonstrated to satisfy the Performance Requirements.

Holmes Fire has been undertaking performance-based fire engineering in Australia throughout these 21 years and actually even prior to the release of this code. One of our founders, Hamish Maclennan, was providing alternative designs to the prescriptive building code well before 1996, through applications to the NSW Land & Environment Court.

The introduction of BCA96 has been a great development and advancement for the industry allowing a change to the approach in how buildings are designed and constructed. And, in a 2013, an independent report estimated that 70% of the $1.1 billion per annum productivity gains delivered by ABCB reforms were derived from the performance-based code. This same report identifies that the productivity gains could potentially double with an increased use of Performance based design.

Holmes Fire believes that the performance-based BCA has achieved its intent to lay the foundation for an industry to advance design, encourage flexibility, improve efficiency and facilitate aesthetic architecture, whilst maintaining the safety, health and amenity requirements of the code.

Holmes Fire is one of the few fire engineering consultancy firms who has been practising with this code since it was first introduced, and consequently a countless number of our clients have benefited from the opportunities performance-based design has offered in adopting new technologies and materials, reducing construction time and costs, and providing architectural flexibility.

ABCB is committed to progressing the code 21 years on, whilst maintaining an approach that increases compliance, efficiency and productivity, including quantification of the Performance Requirements, capacity building and engendering a performance mindset.

Happy 21st Birthday to the performance-based BCA, let us celebrate the growth in our industry, promote many more years of innovative design and continue to allow a performance mindset across Australia’s building and construction industry.