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Construction, Business - 4 min read

Is Australia Suffering from a Shoddy Work Epidemic?

David Cartwright

Senior Marketing Manager - Software

Jan 15, 2018 8:02:00 AM

It seems like every week there’s a fresh news story highlighting an incidence of poor construction quality in Australia. So it begs the question; is Australia suffering from a shoddy work epidemic? What are some of the symptoms of this trend? And what can your organisation do to keep your standards high?


Cheap, Low-Quality Imports

One of the problems that contributes to shoddy construction work in Australia is the use of low-quality imported products. For example, sub-standard wiring from China has been used in thousands of residential buildings in Australia, putting people and homes at risk.

A glaring, recent example of the dangers of low-quality building materials is the 21-storey apartment building that was consumed with fire at Docklands, Melbourne. The Victorian Building Authority’s investigation of the fire concluded that the spread of the fire was aided by non-compliant combustible cladding.


Lack of Waterproofing Standards

Compared with some other countries, Australia has relaxed standards when it comes to waterproofing, and these lower standards can lead to big problems. For example, poor waterproofing on timbre structures can lead to rotten wood and eventually to structural collapse. Structural problems can also happen to steel-enforced bars that are constantly wet due to shower leaks, inadequate plumbing, or problems with waterproofing.

Without a solid waterproofing standard, there is no consistent way to address below-ground waterproofing problems. To address this need, the AIW and Master Builders Association of Victoria have put together a waterproofing course that builders can take to learn more about the problem and develop strategies and standards to address it.


Poor Accountability

A lack of accountability for sub-standard work is another factor that may be contributing to the shoddy work epidemic. Some people claim that a lot of construction work in Australia is performed by people who don’t have the proper training for the jobs they do. Others say that construction workers should be registered as tradespeople in order to enforce more accountability. 

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President of Builders Collective of Australia Phil Dwyer recently said that there is no accountability for building surveyors in Victoria. While some surveyors do a very good job, others develop “cosy arrangements” with certain parties and let the whole industry down by behaving unprofessionally. Without consistent accountability, standards fall prey to other incentives, and consumers and builders alike are left vulnerable.


Impotent Compliance Institutions

Critics of the domestic construction industry say that the compliance institutions are impotent to make changes and enforce higher standards. Others say, however, that the problem is already turning around, in large part because of the digitisation of the industry. 

It takes time to change the culture of an organisation or an industry, but digitisation is accelerating that change because more information is traceable, and transparency is far easier to attain when information is easily accessible online.


What Can You Do?

As an Australian builder, what can you do to uphold great standards of work? Nobody wants to feel like they contributed to a catastrophe like the Melbourne apartment building fire. Nor do they want to face legal problems stemming from foundation issues, or mould due to poor waterproofing.

One of the best things you can do is to keep the quality of your construction to internationally-recognised best practices. Whether or not your local government has established compliance codes for every aspect of your work, you can improve your own standards and offer the very best quality products you can.


Setting the Standard

Multiple organisations have published research and widely-recognised standards regarding the global construction industry. For example, ASTM International has developed lists of construction standards for the following areas:

  • Adhesives
  • Buildings
  • Cement and Concrete
  • Fire and Flammability
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Masonry
  • Roads and Paving
  • Roofing
  • Thermal Insulation
  • Wood

By reviewing internationally recognised standards, you can see how your organisation currently measures up. As you improve your own standards, you’ll gain a reputation for producing quality work and welcoming accountability for your projects. This reputation will serve your organisation well and help you to attract more work in the future.

While it may be helpful for local and federal governments to clean up the compliance requirements for the construction industry in Australia, you don’t have to wait around for this to happen. You can start to improve your own standards today.

By using quality materials, training your workers, attaining certifications, taking responsibility for your projects, reviewing your own standards and practices, and using the best construction technology on the market, you can lift the quality of construction work under your influence.

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