Building works collapse in Victoria

The Builders Collective is a non-profit group of experienced passionate Building industry practioners who represent generations of family businesses who have spent many years trying to raise awareness of the dilapidation of building industry and its regulations.

No one is paid, and the group is purely driven by concerns for the future of our once proud building industry.

We have been drowning in a sea of Government spin doctoring & buck passing for over a decade. The recent event in Mount Waverley is the tip of an iceberg.

Building works Collapse

Visually we have an incident that creates public interest and helps us demonstrate the decline in building regulations & processes that our group has been trying to make change in the right direction.
So let’s explain how in layman’s terms this recent event can occur. Fortunately and by sheer luck alone no one has been hurt at this point and we can freely discuss the events as this time the coroner is not involved nor are the lawyers. We point out from the outset the weather was a secondary factor not primary.
A building project would need to at least do the following from the concept stage-
1. Engage an Architect/draftsmen to design to the building code of Australia (BCA) – Carries professional indemnity insurance
2. Engineering embracing the BCA, which includes soil testing and safe building methods to install foundations. – Carries professional indemnity insurances
3. Apply for planning from local council who makes sure the development meets all the codes before gaining approval including the ability of the proposal to protect and not impact on adjacent properties.
4. Building permits from local council building department who makes sure the design and engineering meets with all the relevant building codes. Local council will also issue asset protection notices for adjacent properties and underground utilities. Council are also chartered through the construction stage to monitor how these assets protection notices via their asset protection compliance officer. All councils have these as staff members.
5. Before works commence a building surveyor will demand appropriate construction methods and carry out appropriate inspections through the building phase. He also must play a role in the initial asset protection notices to adjacent owners who if satisfied with the proposed methods of protection will sign off to enable the surveyor to issue a building permit. – Carries public liability and professional indemnity insurance.
6. Registered Builder and trade practitioners also have duty of care to ensure the Building code is met along with the ability to understand the project its engineering, and plans.
In this case it would include the site workers who all must have at minimum – white cards which certify they have an understanding of OH&S in construction work. This includes excavation of any hole over 1.5 metres that must have protection from collapse. All must work under Worksafe safe work practises.
7. At commencement of this project due to its major excavation works, a safe work method and asset protection would need to have been signed off by the building surveyor and engineer.
8. Due to the work site being on a busy corner and excavation taking over 3 months all entities including the Engineer, Architect, Builder, Excavator driver, Monash Council planning department, Building department and asset protection officer should have a case to answer.
What will probably happen now-
Unfortunately we know the story too well, and can show many sites throughout Victoria, which are still languishing in a cesspool of blame and litigation without an outcome.
Our engineers have told us the only solution to remedy the Mount Waverley site and make it safe will be to effectively fill the whole site in and start again. There are no safe work methods that will allow anyone to work close enough to unstable walls.
This alone will overwhelm the project financially and bring the insurers and lawyers into the equation. As we all know possibly taking years for someone to pay for the works. In this case given a main sewerage line and road way are under threat Government will more than likely take control due to the health and safety risk to the community. Then seek compensation through the courts, which in the long run we all pay for.
So right now-
1. The builder will be divesting any assets out of his business along with anyone else who are possibly liable. Please remember our building warranty insurance scheme in Victoria is only last resort cover, which has been very difficult to claim but in this case an impossibility!
2. Spin doctoring and finger pointing will go on for the next week and at some point the VBA will enter the fray, and endeavour to take the high ground in this matter while other similar disasters/matters on a grander scale affecting far more consumers languish for years because they lack the profile.
3. Insurers who virtually run the industry will have pens poised and be snuggling up to our regulators with threats of opening the gate, which they will claim, will cause loss of viability to support a festering industry.
4. Watch the collapse site and the outcome, as it will illustrate how the system is rotten to the core. It will drag on for years!

In Summary

After a multitude of Commissioners, reshuffles and restructuring we find our building industry regulatory fabric eroded to the core. The cutting of so called regulatory red tape has provided no savings to consumers but effectively driven reputable practitioners out of the building industry as they can’t compete due to the unfair playing field. The lowering of prerequisites to gain registration or licensing in building trades has destroyed the integrity of the Building industry across the board. Any cost saving gained have been far outweighed with non-compliant buildings, poor work practises, dangerous work sites along with a multitude of consumer complaints and litigation.
Those of us who have watched the decline over more than the last decade begin each day in disbelief of what is going on. Those of us who have spent their working life in the building industry are bewildered and disgusted how we have got to this point. Most of us worn out and many have just left a once proud and respected building industry.
Major investigations from Victorias Ombudsman, Attorney General, and Parliamentary enquiries have exposed the shortcomings as expressed but have failed to resonate and translate into reform. In total 54 reviews and enquires nationally since July 2002.
The Builders Collective and the Victorian Plumbers United have continually met with everyone involved to try and stop the rot, and further decline of the regulatory process.
Due to the so called key industry stake holders being mainly trade group’s driven by revenue streams from training and shonky insurance commissions the building industry continues to spiral out of control. Ask anyone of these groups if they have any concerns, and the silence is deafening.
Anyone now can become a registered builder after a 8 week course run buy your local training group. The author is a 40 year registered builder and still learning. This alone treats all of us within the building industry with contempt for our trade skill-sets. These have been sold to anyone for a few dollars completely undermining our life’s work, traditional building skills & apprenticeships.
So in brief we have university trained and accredited licensed personal throughout the construction of the dwelling all monitored-licensed and accredited via the Victorian government building regulatory regime – VBA.
We have further building protection via statutory liability requirements and underwriting insurers.
The comment from the Monash Mayor that their planning and building compliance offices are blameless further illustrates the finger pointing within the building industry and lack of understanding of the various vital roles they all are meant to play in protecting Victorians.
It will never be fixed under the current regime, and was not broken when in 1997 mandatory independent building inspections ceased and private warranty insurance was introduced.

From a recent VBA media release this statement was made:

“This acts as a reminder about the importance of doing your homework when purchasing a property. If you are thinking of buying a house or a building, you should consider arranging a professional inspection to make sure it is safe and meets the building regulations before you buy.”
Buyers beware media release!

Please explain the difference between having a VBA and not having a VBA.
In this case none!

Phil Dwyer
National President
Builders Collective of Australia
Mobile : 0414 699 905 Email:

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