Performance-Based Approach to Compliance

The BCA is referred to as a performance-based document, which means that the only legal compliance requirement is the applicable ‘Performance Requirements’ in each part of the BCA. A Building Solution will therefore only comply with the BCA if it satisfies the relevant Performance Requirements.

Compliance during any building works can be achieved by one of three paths when assessing a building design against the applicable Performance Requirements:

  • Compliance by following the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions.
  • By way of a ‘Performance Solution’.
  • The third method is through a blended approach, often seen in accessibility-related Performance Solutions, particularly during upgrades of existing buildings.

Performance Requirment compliance options in BCA

What is a Performance Solution?

A ‘Performance Solution’ is defined as a building solution that complies with Performance Requirements, other than by satisfying the Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions. Prior to May 2016, they were referred to as ‘Alternative Solutions’, but they now mean the same thing.

Why use Performance Solutions?

Since the release of the 1996 edition of the BCA, Australia has had a performance-based building code.

The objectives of a performance-based building code are to create an environment that has more flexibility to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions by focussing on the outcomes that the building is required to deliver, rather than the prescriptive requirements.

This is especially important when the design of a building does not ‘fit’ the black and white prescriptive way of doing things. The approach allows flexibility, innovation and industry expertise to deliver the same (or better) outcome.

The need for a Performance Solution could be due to a unique use of the building or parts of the building, the roles of future occupants working in the building, a temporary timeframe, existing conditions in a building or heritage restrictions imposed on the fabric of the building.

Access Central Rewriting the Recipe Book

Developing a Performance Solution has been described as ‘baking a cake’ during the recent national NCC seminar series by the Australian Building Code Board. Performance-based design allows you to substitute some ingredients in the recipe based on experience, follow a different recipe or use an alternate cooking method, to meet the Performance Requirements.

In terms of baking a cake, it could be equally as good, but with perhaps a little less sugar. When we consider accessibility, this could result in a dignified and equitable solution that is equal to, or better than, the prescriptive requirements.

As an Accredited Member of the Association of Consultants in Access Australia, Lee Wilson oversees the development of all Performance Solutions. Lee has formulated hundreds of Performance Solutions for a range of projects, including respite homes, hotels, aged-care facilities, churches, schools, boarding houses, apartment buildings, swimming pools, office buildings and so on.

Reliance on Management Plans to Support Performance Solutions

Access Central often take a risk-based approach when developing Performance Solutions, not only ensuring the design solution meets the applicable Performance Requirements, but also reducing risks for everyone involved in the project. The Premises Standards (under the Disability Discrimination Act) puts responsibilities for compliance on owners, designers and certifiers too, and to reduce the risk for all project stakeholders we sometimes need to rely on documented Access Management Plans to support actions or controls to be implemented by building occupants. This helps to make sure that the occupants and their employees follow the required conditions or operational procedures used to support the Performance Solution.