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NO MORE TERMITE BARRIERS FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION

Dr Don Ewart gives a rundown on the notable changes in the revised Australian Standard AS3660.1-2014. 

You might have noticed that AS3660.1-2014 isn’t a friendly document, which is a rotten shame given the hundreds of volunteer hours that went into getting it updated and approved. Unfortunately, a pre-construction standard must be drafted to gain the approval of the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) as a suitable document to be called up into the National Construction Code (NCC). This means many obscure restrictions and the loss of a lot of information that was useful to consumers, designers and pest managers. So, for example, the old AS3660.1-2000 Clause 3.8 reminder about supplying a durable notice is gone because it is assumed that everybody is already aware of the NCC requirement for them at Volume 2, Clause 3.1.3.2.

The only good news is that the NCC is now freely available for download as a set of PDF files. Unfortunately, all the Standards remain expensive documents (mostly read by lawyers), but in a year or so the current Standards Australia publishing contract with SAI Global expires. There are groups pushing for building Standards to also be made free for public download. Please be ready to add your name when the time comes.

The term ‘termite barrier’ is gone in favour of ‘termite management system’ and these systems are made up of ‘termite management system components’ and actions, though actions are covered in AS3660.2 not AS3660.1 which cannot include maintenance information. This name change away from ‘barrier’ was an ABCB requirement, supported by AEPMA. Oddly, what you and I might call a balustrade, is a barrier in the NCC 2015 and all sorts of other barriers still remain. Go figure. Please try to keep AEPMA happy and stop using the term ‘termite barrier’ asap. While you are at it, let’s also close off the idea of Part A and Part B sprays because these old, imprecise terms should not be used (they were meant to be killed off two decades back by the more detailed provisions of AS660-1993).

All the various termite management system components need to work together as an integrated whole so as to effectively deter concealed access below a defined inspection zone, thus managing the termite risk as required by the NCC. The major component is usually a concrete floor slab and there should be documentation that the slab has been placed fit for this purpose, which usually means that someone else signs off that it meets AS2870-2011 (Residential Slabs and Footings) or AS3600-2009 (Concrete Structures).

Apart from Standards compliance, there are several other ways to meet the needs of the NCC. The most common is to rely on a system’s Codemark certification. If you are using a Codemark solution, be sure to comply with the provisions on the certificate with regards to how and by whom it is used. Current certificates are listed on the ABCB website but it can be difficult to find the actual certificates and the manuals on which they rely. If you are doing post- construction work on a property that has a durable notice indicating such a system is installed, you should not take any steps that might compromise that system and, for best risk management, should not necessarily assume that the system is intact or performing as expected.

It is worth remembering that the Standards set the minimum action required. There’s nothing stopping you from providing extra deterrent where the risk justifies it. The NCC on the other hand is both a risk management document and, in the eyes of ABCB, a bit of a recipe book. With the NCC and AS3660.1-2014 in hand, a builder is expected to be able to go to the hardware store and obtain the necessary products to construct a termite management system. There is no specific need for a competent pest manager.

The Queensland variations to the NCC improve on this slightly, but the ABCB refused to accept these, making these provisions a general requirement of AS3660.1, and things like the 50-year service life were not passed. The NCC also allows for an expert opinion to be evidence of the suitability of a solution, so if all else fails, you might be able to find someone who will sign off on your novel approach, no matter what it really involves.

Dr Don Ewart

Dr Don Ewart, a doctor of termites, is a consultant to industry and pest managers, teaches pest management for Melbourne Polytechnic, Chairs the Standards Australia committee that’s currently rewriting AS 3660.2 and helps AEPMA with Codes of Practice. He still fits in the occasional scientific paper too. You can find him at Dr Don’s Termite Pages.