Heritage Technical Codes – Pilot

Copyright 2019 David Young

The Heritage Technical Codes are the result of a pilot project conducted by the Heritage Council in partnership with Heritage Victoria.

The project was prompted by long-expressed concerns by the Heritage Council’s Technical Advisory Committee that the Building Code of Australia’s (BCA) Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions (including the Australian Standards) are generally not well suited for heritage places, and in many instances their application will damage heritage fabric. The absence of relevant Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions for historical buildings has created problems for their management and maintenance, with Australian Standards frequently quoted to justify the removal or destruction of heritage fabric, or the use of replacement materials that will cause long-term damage.

The aim of this project was to test a new approach whereby the BCA Performance Solution process is applied to support the use of building techniques compatible with heritage fabric. The Performance Solution process allows for the use of alternative construction codes (including overseas codes), instead of the Australian Standards, so long as these satisfy BCA Performance Requirements. The project aimed to achieve this by developing specific heritage codes: the Heritage Technical Codes.

The Codes follow the structure of similar standards and codes in Australia and overseas. They include sections on scope and appropriate application, key references used in their development and a definition of key terms. The specialist content is clearly separated into a Normative section that must be followed and an Informative section. Most important is the ‘Performance Solution Assessment’ in Appendix D, which outlines how each Code meets the BCA’s Performance Requirements.

The first two Codes have been produced as a pilot. This will enable the Heritage Council and Heritage Victoria to better understand the challenges and opportunities of developing such Codes, and allow for stakeholder feedback. The topics of ‘lime mortars for the repair of masonry’ and ‘repointing with lime mortars’ were chosen for the pilot due to:

a) the inappropriate replacement of lime mortars with cement or composition mortars in the repair of heritage buildings/structures as a result of referencing AS 3700 and AS 4773 being one of the common issues faced by heritage practitioners

b) the planned publication of a technical guide covering these topics in late 2020 by the Heritage Council, which will provide a detailed background reference on working with lime mortars.

The final phase of the pilot has now been reached and the Heritage Council has endorsed the two Codes to be released for use. A 12-month feedback phase will conclude in July 2021.

You can find the Codes on Heritage Victoria’s website, as well as a range of further technical guidance materials.

Feedback: If you have any insights or improvements regarding the Codes that you wish to share please send them to heritage.council@delwp.vic.gov.au

After July 2021, the Heritage Council will review all the feedback received, and release an updated version of these Codes.

Acknowledgements: The Heritage Council wishes to thank David Young for his dedicated work on the Codes. Council would also like to thank the Heritage Technical Code project steering committee and the members of the Heritage Council’s Heritage Fabric Specialist Committee, who reviewed and provided feedback on the Codes.