the new 2013 BCA and NCC

 architecture, Australia, General, Project Management  Comments Off on the new 2013 BCA and NCC
Apr 302013

The all new 2013 National Construction Code (NCC) comes into effect from tomorrow – 1 May 2013. Every newly designed building must now comply with this new version.

What is the NCC?

The NCC is an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) developed to incorporate all on-site construction requirements into a single code. The NCC comprises 3 volumes: Volumes One and Two (the Building Code of Australia – the “BCA”), and Volume Three (the Plumbing Code of Australia – the “PCA”).

  • Volume One pertains primarily to Class 2 to 9 buildings
  • Volume Two pertains primarily to Class 1 and 10 buildings.
  • Volume Three pertains primarily to plumbing and drainage associated with all classes of buildings.

All three volumes are drafted in a performance format allowing a choice of Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions or flexibility to develop Alternative Solutions based on existing or new innovative building, plumbing and drainage products, systems and designs.

The NCC retains the same dual approach to compliance incorporating some degree of flexibility, so that—

  • if compliance is achieved with the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions, then the proposal is deemed to have complied with the relevant volume of the NCC; or
  • if an alternative approach is desired, you have the opportunity to do so but the proposal must meet the Performance Requirements.

By using the performance-based system, the means by which the proposal will achieve compliance must be selected. This will be by either—

  • a deemed-to-satisfy solution;
  • an Alternative Solution; or
  • a mixture of deemed-to-satisfy and Alternative Solutions.

If an Alternative Solution is chosen, an Assessment Method must be chosen which satisfactorily indicates that the Alternative Solution will meet the relevant Performance Requirements. The nature of the Assessment Method will vary depending on the complexity of the Alternative Solution.

We have done many projects where alternative solutions are proposed and have been approved. A BCA compliance consultant will help in this regard.

Pan House, Chatswood

Pan House, Chatswood: one project where alternate solutions benefited the design

What is the biggest change to this BCA?

Without doubt the major change to this new BCA will be the new requirements for windows built above a certain height above the outside ground level and the associated barriers or screens required.

This is a noble attempt to prevent many falls resulting in injury and death. The ability of windows to be opened will be limited to prevent these falls from occurring. How this impacts on BCA ventilation requirements is still to be seen. It is to be noted that this is for bedrooms and childcare centres only at this stage. As always – ensure you gain the best advice possible in this regard to see if your situation requires it.

What other changes are there?

There a host of other changes including

  • accessible requirements into schools and other facilities;
  • braille indicators and door furniture requirements;
  • flood hazard area requirements;
  • footings and slabs construction

Make sure you comply

This is only a short post about the changes, and as such, please consult the NCC in detail. As always, every building must be designed to comply with the provisions of the BCA, and now the NCC. This doesn’t mean existing buildings must be made to comply – there are exceptions. To be sure, ask us and we can help out.


vertical gardens

 architecture, Bowral, Green, Southern Highlands  Comments Off on vertical gardens
Apr 292013

Green walls, or vertical gardens, are vertical faces of buildings or other structures that integrate vegetation to its surface either in whole or part. They are an interesting way to maximise greenery in tight urban spaces and has been often used in large projects as well as finding a home in smaller commercial projects.

The greening process has certainly breathed a new aesthetic into buildings as varied as houses to work environments. And by “new” we mean new if that concept ignores the previous 2,600 years. One of the original 7 wonders of the world – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – in 600 BC is the earliest known example of a green wall. Today’s vertical gardens even use an irrigation concept similar to that of the then-King Nebuchadnezzar II. As far as can be ascertained, the modern version using hydroponics was invented by Stanley Hart White  in 1938 and not being ‘un-capitalistic’ he even patented the original green wall!

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Green walls have been called vertical gardens, biowalls, or VCW V (vertical vegetated complex walls). Fundamentally though they are all the same thing. They are a way of maximising the sustainability of the planet and reducing the energy load on buildings.

There are two main classes of vertical gardens: green façades and living walls. Green façades are made up of climbing plants either growing directly on a wall or on specially designed supporting structures. The plant shoot system grows up the side of the building while being rooted in the ground. A living wall is comprised with modular panels or containers, often of stainless steel, as well as geotextiles, irrigation systems, a growing medium and vegetation.

A vertical garden on the outside of a building

A vertical garden on the outside

In offices and other commercial environments, for green wall to be installed successfully requires extensive irrigation systems. Sometimes they are attached to the air-return of the ventilation system to be used for air  filtration. Vertical gardens are found most often in urban environments where the biowalls reduce the internal temperatures of buildings. Due to transpiration in plants, it is known that the surfaces of the walls do not rise more than around 5°C above the ambient temperature.

A vertical garden on the inside of a building

A vertical garden on the inside

For  smaller green walls the plant containers are often re-purposed – items that had a previous life – such as milk bottles and cartons, rain gutters, wooden palettes, crates, even disposable styrofoam coffee cups can be used for the seedlings.

Unlike the more traditional “recycling,” where materials are downgraded and then processed for reuse, up-cycling is converting both common and uncommon waste into new products of improved quality and environmental value. This act of repurposing has less impact on landfill.

Things to think about when considering a vertical garden:

  • Appropriate plant selection

Plant size, type, and plant requirements growing in confined spaces. Greater varieties of plant species can be used aand adds more visual itnerest.

  • Location

The ability to place the plants in vertical position for natural growth and reduced plant stress

  • Soil volume

Must be appropriate to the plant selection.

  • Drainage and irrigation

Both the drainage and irrigation should be built-in and integrated with the containers and structure, plumbed up and must efficiently remove excess water.

  • Runoff

By reducing the runoff by capturing water from the irrigation system will improve the water efficiency of the vertical garden and minimise leaching into other plants below.

  • Integrated water storage

Plants should be able to access water stored at the base of the container.

  • Easy Maintenance

This is critical – access must be made easy to insert new and remove old plants, rearrange plants, and to maintain the plants. In addition, maintenance will be required for the structure and drainage and irrigation lines.

Sometimes green walls just appear over time – buildings covered in ivy but managed over time. Frensham in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands is just that.


Frensham School, Mittagong

Frensham School, Southern Highlands

Vertical gardens have been designed for urban agriculture, urban gardening, because a wall can be made more attractive, and sometimes it is built indoors to help alleviate sick building syndrome.

What do you think – would you like a green wall in your house or workplace? Let us know below.

waterfront properties + maritime structures

 architecture, Sydney  Comments Off on waterfront properties + maritime structures
Apr 232013

Having done several waterfront designs here and here, there are issues with regards to any structures on or adjacent bodies of water. No-one needs to be told that buying a waterfront property is a costly undertaking and has it own unique challenges. Often there are maritime structures involved in the purchase and there are many checks that are required to ensure your investment is protected.

Domestic waterfront licences (generally covering facilities such as jetties, boatsheds, berthing areas, boat ramps, slipways and pontoons on foreshore Crown land adjoining waterfront properties) are granted by Crown Lands for the use of submerged and tidal Crown land where there is direct access to Crown land.

Link House, Clontarf

Link House, Clontarf

As always, we advise our clients to seek advice from specialist lawyers experienced in this area to undertake due diligence. The NSW government actually has a helpful website here. If you are considering buying a waterfront property, it is critical to check that there is a valid lease or licence for the foreshore maritime structures. You don’t want to spend the money assuming you have an automatic right to the structures, so get solid legal advice.

Roads and Maritime Services is responsible for leasing domestic waterfront facilities on Sydney Harbour and its tributaries, Botany Bay, Newcastle Harbour and Port Kembla Harbour. Crown Lands is responsible for licensing domestic waterfront facilities in the remaining waterways in NSW. Crown Lands issues licences for approved structures on submerged Crown land below mean high water mark and up to three nautical miles off the NSW coast.  Leases are for either 3 or 20 year terms with options.

RMS continues to issue new leases despite the scare campaign some time ago. In addition to the lease there can be a licence granted for a non-exclusive use over part of the areas affected.

The licence issued to landowners outlines the responsibility of the licence holder over the lifecycle of the structure, from initial granting of licence, ownership, care and maintenance, rent and payments, indemnity and insurance through to the removal of a structure.

Some items that you need to check about the foreshore structures include:

  • Check for any notices in relation to carrying out repairs to the structures or for non compliance issues.
  • Check there is a valid development consent in place.
  • Check the cost of rent and its tariff.
  • Check the foreshore structures or any part of them rely on existing use rights under the EP&A.
  • Check for any special conditions attached to the lease. Sometimes these may contain restrictions on its use as well as environmental protection, continual maintenance or even removal.
  • Check whether the structures are shared by other landowners or the public.
  • Check whether access requirements are detailed or defined in the lease or licence.
  • Check how long you are actually allowed to berth your vessel and what types or sizes of vessels can be berthed.
  • Check the lease plan against what is built to ensure there are no illegal works.
  • Check whether you are allowed to to purchase the reclaimed land adjacent or adjoining the structures – the RMS is currently considering this.
Prince House, Newport

Prince House, Newport

Purchasing a waterfront property on Sydney Harbour or any waterfront body is a costly endeavour and more complicated than a standard transaction. A little up-front knowledge goes a long way and it is critical you are aware of what questions you should be asking of your lawyer. We trust the above will help.

Do you have any comments on private waterfront structures? Let us know below.

the chrysler building, new york

 architecture, art, Facts, International  Comments Off on the chrysler building, new york
Apr 222013

Any art movement can be captured in architecture, and one of the best is the art deco inspired Chrysler Building.  At Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, NY it took under 2 years to build and was completed in 1930. It was the tallest building in the world at that time until the nearby Empire State Building eclipsed it.

Chrysler Building at night

Chrysler Building at night


319m and 77 stories tall (only 71 stories are actually used) the building is probably mostly known for its ornamentation and machine-age cladding material. Being art deco meant it is equipped with elements such as hub-caps (paying respect to the original owner Walter P. Chrysler), eagle heads, pineapples, and mostly in chromium-nickel steel and limestone, and is ultimately capped by its 56m tall gleaming spire. The lobby itself is art deco heaven with African marble, chrome and fresco.

The architect William Van Alen and owner both wanted the Chrysler Building to be the tallest building in the world so they secretly worked on the spire inside the building and away from public eyes. The spire was finally hoisted up through the top of the tapering four-sided repeated sunburst dome and bolted into place to the surprise of everyone. In fact once the new One World Trade Center is completed (and will be the tallest building in New York) the Chrysler Building will still be the fourth tallest building in New York behind the Empire State Building and the Bank of America Tower.

Chrysler Building

photo by Tishman Speyer

The building was extremely innovative in that it was one of the first buildings to use stainless steel over such a large surface. The main material used on the main section of the building is brick whereby the patterns used are changed at every setback which are significant in itself and add to its vitality and visual delight.

Taking a break while working on the Chrysler Building

Taking a break while working


On a personal level, when you see this building in the flesh, walk through it, feel it and live it, it is a an awe-inspiring moment. Art as architecture live and breathe here and work together seamlessly. A building that is its spirit of the age.

So do you like? Let us know, or if you have any buildings that inspire you.

Apr 182013

We are proud and excited to announce that the Proteus Architects blog has arrived.

In our blog, we aim to provide you with interesting articles on the latest in architecture and planning news from Sydney and the Southern Highlands. We will mix it up with some interesting facts, photos and encounters. Some totally random items will also be added.

In addition, we will be updating news on our work and progress on jobs including designs, construction photos and discussions held with all sorts of people.

You can get the latest updates directly by subscribing directly to the blog by entering your email address to the right. Once the subscription is activated you will be notified by email as soon as a post is published.

We hope you will enjoy the posts, find them interesting and enriching, and actively participate by commenting on the posts.

If you have any interesting (non-sponsored) content please leave your comments or email us directly.

So, welcome to our blog!


Mark Gerstl

director + founder,

Proteus Architects


Connect with us:
Contact Us: