Much has been written and said about the hazards and risks of non-conforming building products that have been installed or used incorrectly. It remains a major concern for the Australian building and construction industry due to the risks related to their potential mis-applications, ultimately leading to failure.

Replacing or rectifying products that are non-conforming can cause significant costs – from repairing and replacing products, to risks to safety, or even building failure.

Here at Decor Systems, we believe in getting involved in the design and estimating stages as early as possible. We aim to understand the purpose, the usage, the application and the aesthetic characteristics of the build, as well as the guarantee and life cycle that the project is trying to achieve.

From this, we can ask many questions about the design intent, the application build-up and then determine the most optimal acoustic solution for that particular build. This should then provide true value-for-money in terms of durability, cost and performance, and should also relate back to the overall design intent.

Product substitution

Substitution of specified products can often be difficult to identify. Nonetheless, non-conforming products or product substitution can lead to catastrophic and unforeseen consequences.

Within the specification and construction stages of a build, component products frequently get substituted, often for inferior products, and this results in the design intent being broken.

Decisions to substitute products are often made with a complete lack of understanding of the consequences that the substitution can have on the building’s performance and lifetime costs.

The value-for-money proposition needs to be carefully thought through, as a cheaper substituted product may reduce capital expenditure costs but may also significantly increase operational costs and/or durability over the building’s lifecycle, straying away from the original design intent of the build.

The component or system specification should always relate to the quality and performance required of the build. The number one business-driver should always be to to s specify the correct product that gives the correct application and performance for the locality of where that build is taking place.

Once construction has commenced, it can become tantalising for a contractor to ‘switch-out’ the specified product for an alternative system. Primarily, this is for price reasons.

The importance of compliance

In this era of rigid compliance requirements, this is becoming a risky and dangerous exercise. The contractor would need to satisfy themselves that the proposed substitutions have all the necessary accreditations that conform to the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

This may include:

* Fire certifications.

*  Sustainability accreditations.

*  Certified acoustic testing.

*  Manufactured in Australia.

Additional matters for consideration include:

* Lead times.

* Brand reputation.

* Loss of warranty through use of non-conforming products.

Potential risks of using non-conforming or substituted products include:

* The system may not perform as intended.

* The safety of others could be at risk.

* Warranties may be voided.

Recent events have highlighted the significant risks associated with the use on non-compliant building products.

The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has called for the introduction of “substantial fines” for the replacement of a specified building material with a non-conforming product.

This is one of a number of recommendations made by the Institute in its submission to a Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products, which also included calls for third party certification regimes and establishing a national register of approved products for each class of building.

Irrespective of the final outcome of these reviews, it is inevitable that there will be increasing compliance demands on architects and contractors to ensure that he original design intent is maintained throughout the build.

It will become imperative for all parties to insist on the non-negotiable nature of absolute compliance to ensure that standards are maintained in view of maintaining the public’s confidence.