Building Commissioner

David Chandler OAM is the NSW Building Commissioner. David has more than 40 years’ experience in the building and construction industry in Australia and the Asia Pacific.

David Chandler OAM - the NSW building commissioner

He has hands-on experience in the end-to-end delivery of public and private infrastructure, construction and urban renewal projects, including turning around distressed projects and businesses.

He has successfully delivered high-profile projects such as Canberra’s New Parliament House and Melbourne’s South Bank redevelopment. He has a record for building teams that share common objectives and are focused on results.

He has performed a leading role in inquiries into the performance of the building industry, including into industry practices during the Building the Education Revolution program in Australian schools.

He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1989 for his services to the construction industry.

David has long been an advocate for modernising and lifting industry practices, standards and culture, and transforming the industry’s focus from being self-facing to genuinely customer-centric.

He believes this is crucial to achieving quality, sustainable and liveable built environments.

David has worked with universities to help shape the next generation of construction professionals. He was Adjunct Professor in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics at Western Sydney University.

David is also the founder of the Construction Management Programs, Centre for Smart Modern Construction (c4SMC), which involves engaging with industry to invest in new academic and research capabilities for the construction sector.

David is committed to improving the performance of construction in Australia and restoring customers’ trust and confidence in the industry. He is working towards a future where NSW is Australia’s state of quality construction.

Read the Premier's media release on David’s announcement as NSW Building Commissioner.

Contact the Commissioner

Use this contact form if you have experience dealing with buildings that have substantial defects relating to structure, waterproofing, fire rating and enclosure: The Building Commissioner is keen to hear your perspective.

Use this contribution form if you would like to make a contribution towards creating a more confident, customer-facing construction industry. The Building Commissioner is keen to hear your suggestions.

Other agencies that can help

These agencies provide a range of support and advice services to assist with building related matters.

NSW Fair Trading

Fair Trading provides services and advice for purchasers, renters and owners regarding home building complaints

There is also specific assistance for:

Mascot Towers assistance package

Opal Tower information for residents and landlords

SafeWork

To notify an incident involving serious injury, illness, death or a dangerous incident in a building site call SafeWork on 13 10 50 immediately.

For more information, visit SafeWork

Home building compensation scheme

Home building compensation (HBC) cover – formerly known as home warranty insurance – is an important consumer protection for homeowners in NSW.

It helps homeowners if their builder is unable to complete building work or fix defects because they have become insolvent, died, disappeared or had their licence suspended for failing to comply with a money order made by a court or the tribunal in favour of the home owner.

For more information, visit the State Insurance Regulatory Authority

Read the Commissioner's blogs

Rebuilding confidence amongst NSW multi-unit residential purchasers has never seemed more urgent, it will require a mix of new accountabilities, capabilities and culture
Minister Kevin Anderson, Building Commissioner David Chandler, and Premier Gladys Berejiklian
Left to right: Minister Kevin Anderson, NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler, and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

By David Chandler, NSW Building Commissioner

My appointment as NSW Building Commissioner just 8-months ago has now arrived firmly at the implementation phase. The Design and Building Practitioner’s Bill along with strong supporting compliance and enforcement powers to will soon return to the parliament. The NSW Cabinet has signed off on the Building Commissioner’s workplan. There has been a huge public and industry engagement strategy by both the Minister for Better Regulation and Building Commissioner’s offices to build an almost universal consensus for the reforms that will be necessary to rebuild consumer confidence in the state’s construction sector.

Kevin Anderson is the NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation. A strategy for restoring confidence in the state’s residential construction sector was outlined in a Building Strong Foundations discussion paper in June 2019. A lot has been achieved since.

The strategy will be known as Construct NSW. Its urgency embraces making the industry’s customers confident to start purchasing new apartments and contributing to the economic stimulus and job mobilisation challenges the state now faces as it recovers from Covit-19.

Building Strong Foundations

There is top down commitment for NSW to lead in being the first to rebuild confidence.

Most in the industry will understand the need to underpin any strategy with strong foundations. For others it is clear that building strong foundations may be a novel change of practice. This is all about to change. There are 3 steps in building strong foundations;

  1. Removal of unsuitable material in the underlying foundation conditions
  2. Remediating other material that may be suitable for incorporation
  3. Ensuring that everything meets the required standards for building

These 3 steps provide a useful strategic roadmap to rebuild resilient construction practices, new competencies and proof testing. This testing must underpin making more trustworthy buildings. The construction industry and its customers are each entitled to deal with more trustworthy players in an industry that represents $75 bn pa of NSW’s economic activity and over 360,000 of the state’s workforce. Tomorrow’s industry must be attractive to its players in order to build a sustainable future momentum and attract new players. This task has an industrial scale, it must have very clear and measurable short, medium and longer-term goals. Short spans from 2020 to 2022, medium covers 2023 to 2025 and longer-term 2030.

The talking is done – it's time to get on

This week the first of the Building Commissioner’s working groups commence. The Construct NSW strategy involves 6-pillars of interrelated initiatives to reform the industry. There will be 7 working groups. A Steer Committee and 6-pillar focused working groups. A wide representation of community, industry, regulators and educators will be involved. The immediate priority will be establishing the enabling resources and systems to support implementing the new reform legislation. The centrepiece of the short-term goal will be focusing on the most unsuitable or risky players and providing unequivocal guidance to those on the edge of the remediations that will be necessary to be part of the future.

Building Confidence working groups chart
Building Confidence working groups

There is little value in further debating at the margins about what the root causes are of how the industry has got to the crisis that has become stark over the last 10 or more years.

The Design and Building Practitioner’s Bill provides a clear description of what will be required.  The need for declared designs properly prepared by accredited designers at the start of construction supported by building contracts that require declarations by builders that they have constructed projects in accordance with declared designs and the Building Codes. These are the bookends that will be able to progressively assure customers that the buildings they buy into are not lemons and are absent the material defects of the past.

The Design and Building Practitioner Bill will be accompanied by complimentary compliance and enforcement powers that will provide the Building Commissioner and regulatory team with substantial new capabilities to make short-term impact. These powers will target players who have past form or who potentially have a combination of less predictable capabilities when benchmarked with the standard player combinations. Form will include behaviours such as prior insolvency, unsatisfactory supply chain payment records, poor quality Occupation Certifications and poor buildings. Simply put, risky project credentials.

Call this cohort of players out as being the unknown or unacceptable foundation material. Their first option will be remediation, the alternative will be progressive removal from the landscape. There is universal agreement that the riskiest and, in the past, the least accountable players have done the industry most harm to its reputation. From the day the new powers legislation passes the NSW parliament it will be game on to tackle these players. That this message is already in wide circulation as evidenced by approaches to the Building Commissioner’s office by some developers and certifiers seeking to change course.

Sharper accountabilities are one factor – so to are new capabilities and culture

Strong foundations are not built on sand. They need to be proven, stress tested and be rock like. There is no room for ‘she will be right’ or ‘explaining unacceptable standards as, not being as bad as those over there’. A one-time reset from minimums to best practice must unfold. The focus must shift to meeting public expectations that ‘bricks and mortar’ are as reliable as they once were. The built world is an essential element that underpins the nations personal and public wealth. Imagine if Australia’s currency was allowed to be as unpredictable. Recent experiences in the riskiest residential apartments could meet a lemon test. The industry could well as the questions normally applied to other consumer goods.

  • Does the building depart (in one or more significant ways) from its description or sample or demonstration model; or
  • Is the building substantially unfit for a purpose and the developer, designer or contractor of the building cannot easily remedy it within a reasonable time; or
  • Is the building unfit for a disclosed purpose that was made known to the consumer or any person engaged in negotiations and the provider of the building or service cannot easily remedy it within a reasonable time; or
  • The building is not of acceptable quality because it is unsafe; or
  • A reasonable consumer, who was fully aware of the nature and extent of the failure, would not have purchased the building.

Of course, the challenge for residential apartments is that once their title passes to a purchaser the application of normal consumer remedies becomes impractical for consumers and the consequences can be dire. This is why the Building Commissioner’s additional powers will immediately focus on stress testing the most important purchaser transaction. This is the point when a building Occupation Certificate is declared, and a purchaser is required to transition form depositor to owner. It is this transaction that will come in for the most immediate attention. Some think that this focus may unreasonably be directed at certifiers. For those with a lousy certification track record this will be so. However, the main target will be those potentially riskier developers and constructors who have cut corners in proper design preparation and construction procurement. When this happens, no-one wins.

It is likely that about 10-percent of the riskiest player combinations of developer, constructor and certifier will attract the earliest attention. This will be a visible experience where consumers and all of the construction eco-system see that the time is up for bad play. There will be consequences. There will be no-surprises. Developments that come in for immediate attention will be given ample time to address issues of compliance and assurance. The Building Commissioner’s team will offer guidance. But they will not be there to moderate compromise. They will be there to observe the integrity of declaring buildings fit for ownership by purchasers. For the few who do not get this, there’ll be consequences.

While poor practice will be confronted, best practice will enjoy more autonomy.

Moving beyond changing the game and building a robust industry

Each of the Construct NSW strategic pillars are targeted at restoring long term robustness in the state’s building economy, underpinned by the use of new technologies, new skills, modern practices and a customer facing culture. A major transformation initiative has already commenced to build new operational capabilities and a more proactive intervention culture in the state’s building regulator. There is a solid platform of subject matter expertise and desire to drive better outcomes. In the past, limitations on integrated efforts across the business and amongst other agencies have constrained the potential now envisaged.

The working group participants will play a vital role. They will bring wide sector viewpoints. They will be exposed to the challenges that have informed each of the 6-pillars. They will be invited to bring considered contributions that may help inform the detail of what next, when and to what effect. They will be asked to look across all of the 6-pillar initiatives to envisage how they will they will all add to the whole. Once a new setting where stronger foundations become expected, the potential of the working groups to help shape our industry’s future presents. This is a unique opportunity. The brand Construct NSW will be synonymous with this endeavour. With all of this goes the responsibility of measurable achievement. Some measures will take longer to express, others must be short term.

Short term measures will involve each working group defining the key metrics that would exhibit the progress the Construct NSW strategy has in mind. These will feed into early dashboards that will be publicly visible form the Building Commissioner’s web site. They will track increased in the field inspections, interventions and corrections. They will track new system capabilities that are now or will soon be possible from the e-planning, government licensing, e-strata and over the next year the delivery of new priority learning delivery. The impact of these interventions will be insistence of quality design documentation being present on project work sites, the use and compliance with those designs and Australian Standards. That site construction culture becomes one where those in charge are confronted with demonstrating that they are fit and proper persons to be in charge of the work that is being performed and overseeing a high level or safety standards for those working on site. There is a well-recognised correlation between poor on-site safety and quality. Both spring from a common mindset to do it right and work safely.

Of course, there is much more to rebuilding long term confidence in the NSW construction industry. There are many who have fingers in this pie as I have previously reported. There is a need for the tide to lift across the board. Professional Associations will be challenged to raise their boats to meet the requirements of the Professional Standards Council, vocational and higher education providers will need to develop new priority teaching content and agile delivery methods that support adaptive life-long career pathways. A new future-fit industry regulator model will need to be developed and implemented by 2022. Manufacturers and suppliers who have in the past attested to ‘job done’ when their certified products are dispatched to building sites will need to take a longer view of installed compliance.  And constructors who are still exhibiting wasteful industrial revolution like fabrication methods on-site 20-years into the 21st century will need to rethink their business models. Business as usual will need to be adjusted across the whole of the construction eco- system.

We are pleased to have recently appointed 7 great undergraduates and recent graduates to join the working groups. Their role will be to advocate for what they feel a confident and attractive construction industry in NSW will need to look like beyond 2023. They will be the voice of not only their peers, but for those future constructors now in school who should see a reformed construction landscape in NSW has holding many attractive, rewarding prospects. The Construct NSW young constructors will be there to press for a better future.

Our shared task to rebuild confidence amongst NSW multi-unit residential purchasers has never seemed more urgent, it will require a mix of new accountabilities, capabilities and culture. The stage for this will soon be set. Then the players need to step into their new roles.

David Chandler OAM

NSW Building Commissioner

20th April 2020

See: https://www.customerservice.nsw.gov.au/about-us/building-commissioner

Draft building legislation targets concerns about apartment buildings
Beautiful blue sky during sunrise above the city of Sydney Australia

By David Chandler, NSW Building Commissioner

This week I’d like to spread the word about the draft building reform legislation that’s out for public consultation and encourage building professionals and consumers to comment. This is the next milestone to be reached as part of the transformation of the building industry.

The Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019 lays the foundations for the major reforms the NSW Government committed to in response to the Building Confidence report by Professor
Peter Shergold AC & Bronwyn Weir and addresses the most pressing concerns people have about the design and construction standards of multi-unit and multi-storey apartments.

The draft legislation is the result of a collaborative effort by policy experts within government and myself working closely with Bronwyn Weir, to ensure we meet recommendations in the report. I’ve applied a first-hand building experience lens to this work. I hope that, with our combined work, the legislation
will be meaningful, usable and easy for members of our industry to navigate and comply. This Bill is part of the solution to weed the dodgy players out, keep the good players in and restore consumer confidence.

The draft Bill encourages building professionals to meet or exceed accepted design and building standards to reduce the risk of defects.

Firstly, building designers and other building practitioners will need to meet certain professional criteria to be registered.

They will also need to declare that their designs and constructions comply with the Building Code of Australia’s standards.

They will also have a duty of care to current and future building owners and must take reasonable steps to prevent expensive defects. If they fail in their duty of care, they will be liable to pay for the repair bill.

The NSW Government wants to finalise the Bill and introduce it to Parliament this year.

Now is the opportunity for you to have your say.

I want to encourage you – particularly if you’re a building professional or a residential consumer – to be part of the conversation.

You can find out more about the draft Bill and how to make a submission on the NSW Fair Trading consultation page. The closing date for submissions is 16 October 2019.

The draft Bill is an important step to address the greatest area of concern in the building and construction industry, however there is plenty more that we will be looking at as we move through the reform process.

If you have a view on certifiers, I’d also encourage you to make a submission on the draft Building and Development Certifiers Regulation 2019 by 28 October 2019.

The draft regulation seeks to allow non-government organisations to administer accreditation schemes, clarify all certifiers’ roles, responsibilities and professional standards, improve consumer protections and beef-up compliance and enforcement.

Legislation is just part of the picture of how to make the building industry better for consumers.

Everyone in the industry has a role to play in delivering good customer service, building compliant buildings and lifting consumer confidence.

Feel free to make a submission on the draft legislation or drop me a line. I’m interested in your thoughts, your ideas or your concerns. You can contact me via the forms below.

Progress report: 1 month in and we have foundations
Beautiful blue sky during sunrise above the city of Sydney Australia

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As Building Commissioner, I’ve had a very productive first month laying the foundations for my work leading transformation of the NSW building and construction industry.

Since I began on 14 August, I have met with more than 40 stakeholders including consumers, developers, financiers, insurers, builders, architects, state government regulators, and local councils. I have made it clear to them that my primary focus is to foster industry improvements, so that the built environment of our future meets the needs and expectations of the customers who invest in them.

What I have been thrilled with is the appetite for change within the industry. Many of the most significant industry stakeholders are telling me: “David, we want this change”. I am encountering overwhelming support for change.

Most of the industry is rejecting the poor practices and systems that have tarnished the great majority and plunged public confidence.

I’ve seen examples of poor practices first-hand. In my new role I’ve visited buildings and work sites that were examples of quality, and ones that made me embarrassed on behalf of our industry. And I have been in this industry for over 40 years. It will be part of my role to recommend to government recourse and remediation methods for the owners of buildings with significant defects.

Now is an exceptional time to harness the market’s wish for change – the market is my biggest lever to transform the industry into one that is future-fit and customer-centric. My role is not to implement this change. It is to lead and coordinate, and influence.

Similarly, I am performing a leadership role within government. This is to ensure that regulatory and legislative reforms, such as the upcoming legislative response to the Shergold-Weir report into the state of our national building industry, are implemented with pace and in a way that is understandable and meaningful to industry.

I have also had the opportunity to address Parliament twice this month. I have explained that I don’t need a Building Commission under me to achieve dramatic change. This is because of this leadership role, and my ability to draw on the many resources available within government, the education sector and the industry. I will, however, engage the resources needed to undertake my role.

This month I have also met with educators to discuss training requirements and how we can transform our industry’s culture to one of accountability and pride, and how we can also collect data on how our industry is currently performing and have a baseline to measure improvements against. We will use this data to prioritise opportunities to enhance NSW construction capabilities.

Data will be a crucial tool in measuring progress and the industry’s performance. Data is necessary for transparency – for the customer, and as a mirror to hold back to the industry.

I am working with government and stakeholders to finalise the list of outcomes I would like to achieve in the important work ahead. I have undertaken to detail my progress against outcomes and tasks six months into my tenure once the government has endorsed my work plan.

I think it’s important though to continue to update you regularly via this blog, to ensure there is transparency about the process, which will focus on outcomes for the customer and the whole industry, rather than any specific interest groups.

I thank the dozens of people who have contacted me in the past month.  I am reviewing your correspondence regularly and will continue to use the themes that emerge to inform my work priorities.

I invite you to engage with me via the forms below.


Leading transformation in building and construction
Beautiful blue sky during sunrise above the city of Sydney Australia

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As an industry practitioner for over 40 years, I’ve been an unapologetic advocate for the transformation of the NSW building and construction industry.

There is no doubt that community confidence in our industry has been undermined. While there are many good operators, the performance of some has attracted the attention our industry is receiving.

We need to reset this, and we can only do this by significant, evidence-based systemic change.

As Building Commissioner, it’s my role as a leader and an advocate to drive crucial reforms to transform our industry, but I can’t do it alone. I will be relying on a strong collaboration with industry, government, educators and consumers to make this happen.

Regulation and compliance are a centrepiece to this picture - but they will not solve all our issues.

We need to see a change in our industry's culture, and that culture needs to be one of accountability and pride. Our industry must be accountable to regulators, the broader market and particularly the customer.

Outdated industry workplace practices and models of operation are no longer relevant in our current environment. We need to redefine how we operate as a customer-centric industry and one which attracts the next generation of construction professionals.

There are many areas to focus on. For example, let’s look at how our national building standards can best serve as an enabler for the industry. Let’s also look at how we manage building contracts and how to strengthen performance rating systems.

This is also an excellent opportunity to explore how we can adopt modern technologies to better manage building construction. This should enable a more transparent and trustworthy platform of activities throughout the construction process, lifecycle and capturing the inputs of suppliers, materials, companies and workers involved in projects.

I’m also committed to understanding perspectives of homeowners undergoing hardships with properties with substantial defects relating to structure, waterproofing, fire rating and enclosure.

I will be working towards a more confident future. I invite you to join me in this exceptional opportunity offered by the NSW Government to change the way we think about building and construction in NSW.

The transformation won’t be easy and will require everyone’s cooperation and support. I will be consulting with the community, all levels of government, as well as the private sector, including insurance companies, banks, infrastructure and construction companies, material producers, other professionals and of course customers.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our industry. Together, let’s create an environment where future generations are confident in the quality of construction, the security of their investments and the prospect of great places to live.

To deliver on these aspirations, please engage with me to help build strong foundations for the future. Please continue to visit this website for updates and progress on these priorities.


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