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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 11 February 2010) . . Page.. 427 ..

Certain development approvals (DAs) are conditional on use of specified materials. Without such conditions external materials can change without the need for a DA amendment. For example, a DA for a brick-veneer house could be deemed complied with if the house is built of raw earth or straw bales instead of factory bricks.

Construction laws regulate material performance including structural soundness, stability, corrosion, slip resistance, thermal performance, efficiency, health, sustainability, water resistance, porosity, durability, fire resistance, smoke generation, termite susceptibility, contamination, legionella, amenity, and electrical and gas safety.

(2) Generally, planning and construction laws allow any materials including mud bricks, straw bales, cob, and raw earth. However, specific circumstances could trigger specific restrictions.

(3) Specific planning restrictions might require an extension to a heritage-restricted house to match the construction of the original house. Construction laws require all habitable buildings to be built to comply with the Building Code of Australia, which covers health, safety (including structural safety and safety from fire), amenity and sustainability.

Mud brick, cob and earth construction made on-site from raw-soil-based material might have to be tested against the Code’s performance requirements. Raw-soil-based material that is too sandy may have to have clay added to increase compressive strength and durability, and to reduce porosity, for example. Straw bales may also need other materials added, such as render to increase fire resistance where required by the Code.

(4) ACT Government regulatory instruments do not regulate materials in specific zones on an ACT-wide or suburb basis.

(5) Planning regulation in rural areas is substantially different from urban areas, but construction regulation is the same in both, other than bushfire resistant construction. For example, the siting of buildings and windows is regulated in urban areas but is less regulated in rural areas, due to lack of proximity to rural neighbours.

The ACT’s non urban area is declared a ‘bushfire-prone area’, requiring building code assessment to determine bushfire resistant construction requirements, if any.

(6) Energy efficiency ratings software accredited under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme or under the Australian Building Codes Board’s Protocol for House Energy Rating Software solely assesses building thermal performance. This rates overall thermal performance by assessing combined effects of the thermal properties of the building’s relevant materials, including thermal resistance and the effects of thermal mass on heating and cooling loads.

The software caters for mud bricks and rammed earth but cannot inherently cater for straw bales. However, the ratings are not mandatory for construction, and low thermal mass of straw bales does not necessarily prevent code compliance.

(7) The Public Health Regulation 2000 prohibits installation of a toilet without connection to a sewer unless approved by an authorised officer.

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