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September 18, 2021

Preparing for the NSW Building Legislation Changes

“Advocates of creativity must understand the pressing facts of the executive’s life: Every time an idea is submitted to her, it creates more problems for her—and she already has enough.” - Ted Levitt, HBR


How does PropTech help exceed new requirements under The Design and Building Practitioners Regulation 2021 (NSW)? Neuron provides background to the new Legislation and how programme risk mitigation can be achieved. 



 As of 1 July 2021, professional engineers, builders and designers working on multi-unit residential buildings have new obligations under The Design and Building Practitioners Regulation 2021 (NSW).
The Legislation outlines strengthened building compliance measures to ensure apartments are built in accordance with design and safety standards, as outlined in the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (NSW). 


Set to restore confidence in the residential construction industry, the legislation applies to any class 2 building undergoing construction, renovations, protective treatment or upgrades that relate to:

  • fire safety
  • water proofing
  • building structure
  • building enclosure
  • mechanical
  • plumbing and/or 
  • electrical building services.

Key changes to the design and build process now include:


  1. Design and building practitioners now have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid economic loss caused by defects.
  2. Applicable building work on class 2 buildings will now require a design to be prepared by a registered, competent Design Practitioner before work can commence.
  3. Design and building work must be compliant with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and other relevant standards. It must be signed off by registered, competent Design and Building Practitioners before building works can start.
  4. Professional engineers working on a class 2 building in one of the prescribed areas must be registered or supervised by someone who is.
  5. All BCA-regulated designs and declarations must be lodged on the NSW planning portal*.
  6. A building compliance declaration must be provided before an application is made for an occupation certificate. This applies only if the application for the occupation certificate for the building work was made on or after 1 July 2021.
  7. Records (as outlined in the Regulation) are required to be kept for at least 10 years.


*Note, clients do not need to submit anything to the portal during the DA concept phase, so there are no issues using Neuron during the DA phase, and another engineer post DA.


What do the changes mean?

As the NSW Government doubles down on design and build quality, resolved designs need to be delivered earlier in order to meet the new requirements. The new legislation reinforces the need to determine costs, design options and utility connections at, or prior to, the time of DA submission.


In short, your engineering consultants will have more work to do to prepare and log coordinated documentation prior to construction starting, while the design team gets to focus on the detail, coordination and documentation.


Additionally, developers need to understand the full picture of a development, or big-ticket items at minimum, prior to construction going ahead.

To limit the impact of this additional work on the programme, getting your DA right and knowing all of your options from day one is critical to keeping your programme on track. Using Neuron before engaging your engineers reduces your risk significantly. 


Compliance declarations


Under the legislation, there are now FOUR times you must lodge compliance declarations throughout the design and build lifecycle:


  1. Before building work starts.
  2. After building work starts. This will pick up any variations on site. Note you will have to cease works on that aspect until the prepared varied design is prepared and declared.
  3. Before applying for an occupation certificate.
  4. After the occupation certificate has been issued.


Variations occur when poor design decisions are made early in the development life cycle.

The following variations (yes, even minor ones), MUST be reflected in a regulated design prepared and declared by a registered Design Practitioner, before building work on that variation can commence:


  1. fire safety systems
  2. waterproofing
  3. building structure
  4. building enclosure
  5. building services (electrical, mechanical and plumbing services covered by the BCA).


The basic idea is to get the design right before construction works start, and to reduce variations as much as possible. It is important that developers realise value management changes much earlier in the piece, i.e., prior to construction commencement.

Where to from here?

To any established design, build and engineer practitioner, these changes are reflective of good design done right.


More and more, the design process we’ve long been accustomed to is proving unsustainable in the face of regulatory changes, design innovation, and the speed of development.


Consultants are often unable to provide accurate, comprehensive engineering and design options within the appropriate timeframes using manual processes alone.

This impacts heavily on project results and can subject clients to (potentially major) budget overruns, not to mention increased risk. 


In an ideal world, the added accountability and duty of care in residential construction will encourage design innovation, due to the strong focus on design excellence and positive community outcomes.


PropTech as a solution

PropTech enables consulting engineers to guide clients through the design process with timely, accurate information for integrated and code compliant design outcomes. 


This drives innovation and design integrity, as comprehensive options are explored in the early planning stages, while the development is still malleable to change.

Providing tangible, digestible and common-sense options provides the client opportunity to make clear, data-backed decisions, before it’s too late.
How Neuron can help
 Comprised of industry-leading engineers across multiple disciplines, Neuron is committed to lifting the standard of build quality and design and welcomes the Design and Building Practitioners Regulation 2021.
 Neuron was developed to assess building requirements for compliance, identifying planning impacts at the concept level. 


Whether your development is a spreadsheet with yields defined, an architectural design ready for DA or pre-contract design documentation, Neuron can review your project. If you suspect there is risk, even post-construction start, it’s important to make decisions now.
If you are concerned if your project has pursued the right design options, or are seeking industry-leading engineering advice and guidance, please email our Engineering Lead Steven Cassells at to set up a free consultation.