The Australian Building Codes Board provided the NCC (the BCA) for free earlier this year (Yay! Yippee! Woohoo!) and after speaking at September’s Building Australia’s Future Conference the last question from the room was, “Why can’t standards be free?”
To check I wasn’t dreaming, I asked the audience for a show of hands from those who agreed. I couldn’t get an exact count but I reckon the majority thought it was a good idea.
I agree. It is a pretty cool idea. Firstly it would save everyone a bucket load of money. I spend over $2500 most years which is spread across over 20 building consultants and designers. My BDA friends are being tempted with an NCC bundle deal for $750 each. Secondly, it would mean that everyone would want to download all standards pertaining to their work which should mean better solutions, as well as saving paper and time.
The final reason is the really good one. Exposure is a double-edged sword. Initially, it would make Standards Australia look like good guys. I also suspect the increase in readership might spawn lots of critics once they try to find out what each standard means and how confusing it is when you have to jump between appendices, definitions and other standards including standards with slightly different numbers.
So maybe this is a case of lose-win. Everyone is a loser at the moment because standards are doubly worthless if firstly you have to pay too much for them and then have to translate what they mean. Yet we would be lost without their content because it helps us make good quality buildings. Making them free is a step in a winning formula. Ironically, the most successful businesses have been the ones that placed a unique product into the biggest possible markets. Think of model T Fords, Kodak cameras, Sony Walkmans and Google.
Yep, let’s emancipate building knowledge by making standards FREE!
Free Standards in the ideal world would not be easy to achieve. The exclusive publishing/selling rights are locked up with SAI Global (a publicly listed company on the ASX), who rebate a percentage of the income from the Standards they sell (across all sectors, not just building and construction) back to Standards Australia to administer the process of Standards development/update. While everyone naturally looks to Government as being the ultimate benefactor, free Standards may not be on their radar as a big vote catcher!