Involving industry leads to practical Standards

Standards development process

Issue 25 – March 2011

This article was published in Build magazine February/March 2011 and was written by Rosalie Chamberlain at Standards New Zealand.

Standards are a critical part of New Zealand's building controls framework providing guidance on how to comply with the New Zealand Building Code. So how are these Standards created and revised and how do we ensure they best reflect our needs?

Standards New Zealand is responsible for maintaining Standards in this country. It develops Standards using robust, internationally recognised best practices that rely on widespread public comment and committee consensus.

'Standards are developed in partnership between Standards New Zealand, industry and other stakeholders', says Debbie Chin, Chief Executive of Standards New Zealand. 'We rely on active industry involvement and engagement to ensure the outcomes are appropriate and will be supported and implemented.'

Standards New Zealand was established to develop building Standards following the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. Today, Standards New Zealand develops and maintains Standards in over 40 sectors.

Scoping Standards solutions

An organisation will often fund the development of a Standard as a means to find a solution to a business issue, resolve a problem, or provide a means to comply with legislation. Standards New Zealand works with these sponsor organisations to scope the need or opportunity, define the project and identify who will use the document and what benefits it will create.

'When we develop a Standards solution, we agree how it will be implemented in the sector with the sponsor,' says Michelle Wessing, Acting General Manager Solutions with Standards New Zealand. 'For example, a Standard may be referenced in the Building Code's Acceptable Solutions or Verification Methods as a means of compliance, or a sector organisation may mandate to its members that the use of a Standard or a handbook is essential.'

Standards New Zealand provides additional services, such as facilitating scoping meetings, stakeholder coordination, project management, and developing audit workbooks, handbooks, and implementation tools.

Revising a Standard

Standards are revised regularly to reflect ongoing research and changes in industry practice, technology, materials or legislation. For example, the recent review of NZS 3604 Timber-framed buildings was sponsored and contributed to by the Department of Building and Housing and the Earthquake Commission, with Standards New Zealand also providing significant funding. The revision was prompted in 2005 by wide agreement that design tolerances had changed since NZS 3604 was last revised in 1999.

Another example is NZS 4219 Seismic performance of engineering systems in buildings, which was revised in response to updated loadings Standards and new ways to seismically isolate building components. The NZS 4219 revision committee included representatives from engineering, building, science, refrigeration, heating, air conditioning, local government, plumbing, gas fitting, drain laying, and education organisations. This cross section helped to ensure that those who install equipment and work with the buildings could use the revised Standard.

Seeking industry input

Once the decision to create or revise a Standard is made, Standards New Zealand forms a Standards development committee to oversee the work. It approaches a range of organisations with a common interest in the subject and asks them to nominate committee members.

For the revision of NZS 3604, Standards New Zealand sought stakeholder feedback through surveys and scoping workshops with industry advisory groups, sector boards, and associations such as BRANZ, the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute of Architects, the Certified Builders' Association of New Zealand and the Registered Master Builders' Federation. This feedback framed the scope of the review project.

Standards New Zealand also formed a leadership group comprised of 13 representatives from key organisations in the building industry to maintain a strategic overview of the project and provide policy guidance from relevant industry sectors.

Standards developed by experts

Expert volunteers on the Standards development committee develop the Standard using evidence-based research, experience, and stakeholder input, including from the public. Standards New Zealand staff work with the committee to ensure all stakeholder views are considered and where practicable, committee members agree on the content of the draft Standard.

For the NZS 3604 review, Standards New Zealand also formed a technical committee to focus on technical issues. Five industry-specific workgroups reviewed specific sections of the Standard.

The 22 people on the technical committee represented organisations from across the building industry, including Architectural Designers New Zealand, the Building Officials' Institute of New Zealand, the Design Association of New Zealand and the New Zealand Timber Industry Federation.

Public comment sought

At this stage, Standards New Zealand publishes the draft Standard on its website so anybody can contribute to developing the Standards solution. Standards New Zealand manages the feedback process, and the Standards development committee considers all comments and makes any agreed changes.

Once the process is complete, the Standards development committee votes via postal ballot to approve the final Standard for publication. The overall goal is to ensure that the majority of committee members agree that the Standard will achieve its intended outcome.

'The credibility and effectiveness of a Standard is a result of the content being agreed to by the key parties affected by it,' says Standards New Zealand's Chief Executive, Debbie Chin.

Ongoing sharing of industry feedback

There are over 660 building-related Standards, 230 of which are referenced by New Zealand Building Code compliance documents. Standards New Zealand continuously works with industry to identify and plan potential work programmes to develop and maintain these Standards. Sector stakeholder groups and industry advisory groups share information to help Standards New Zealand define work programmes and priorities, clarify questions and help scope new and revised Standards and the issues that these solutions will address.

In November 2010, for example, Standards New Zealand ran an industry forum on the Canterbury earthquake and its effects to feed into ongoing work programmes for Standards solutions.

For more information about building Standards visit and enter the keyword 'building' in the search field.

Published in building.