This is the second in a series of interviews with Nerrida Pohl about lack of proper regulation of the construction and development industry in Australia. Nerrida talks about the 30 story appartment building in Victoria, where she bought two appartments 'off the plan'. The building is a shared commercial/private one, that is meant to share one plan, but Nerrida has discovered with some amazement that there are actually two different plans. Although the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled, in a dispute between the developer and Stonington Council, that residents would share the building's loading bay with commercial occupants, this right was sold off by a member of the building management for $1.00 per annum peppercorn rent. This has meant that moving vans park at the front entrance, causing traffic problems in a very busy area. The front doors are propped open so that furniture etc can be brought into the building, creating a security risk. Furthermore, the ''Residents Meeting Room' specified in the plan, has been occupied by a real-estate agency. This means that residents have no formal or designated place to meet, communicate, and organise for their own benefit. It is especially hard because many appartment owners dwell overseas and cannot easily be contacted by other owners who, when they ask, are only given overseas mailing addresses, which might be PO boxes or legal firms in distant cities.
VIDEO UNPUBLISHED: Unfortunately the person interviewed in this video has asked me to unpublish it because the publicity she has received has apparently caused her problems.
"People end up with nothing because they really don't believe we have a system as bad as we do." Consumers are unprotected in Australia's building disaster. "You may have a house that's being demolished, but you still have a block of land. If you've got any superannuation or anything in the bank, at least hang on to that." Anne Paten of Victorian Building Action Group (VBAG) talks about how the system that's supposed to help building consumers actually bleeds the victims of the industry even more. People qualify for insurance, but never get the money. They go to VCAT and are sent away with nothing. The results are bankruptcy, divorces, and suicides. Substantial reports and inquiries are removed from the internet. Australians need to realise that the government won't help them; they have to join together and help each other.
We have transcribed some highlights from the videoed speech full of extraordinary revelations - made at the Victorian Building Activists Group AGM 2019.
Since 2002 there have been mandated payments for builders in all states to take out domestic building insurance (DBI in Victoria), yet almost no owner who has suffered by bad building has successfully claimed their insurance, despite multiple defects. For instance, in 2011, $88m was paid into the Victorian fund, a year when 40% of building consumers suffered financial loss.  Yet, for that same year, only three owners had successful insurance claims against their builders. Yet many, many more qualify. The money goes to salaries in administrative infrastructure for the funds. Recently it was reported that owners who suffered in the 2011 Lacrosse dangerous cladding fire disaster had a 'big' win of $7.5m at VCAT. This sum does not even cover the amount paid to get people out of the building on the day of the fire. Owners have borrowed far more than that just to go to court. And the builder was not even held responsible. They system protected him.
At 10 minutes into the video:
"In 2012, the Victorian Omsbudsman found  that the [Victorian] Building Commission, instead of being a 'regulator'[...] was taking the big building companies out to dinner, to the best restaurants, with the best bottles of wine then getting them tickets for the tennis centre, for the football, and so on, and giving the money to the HIA, the MBA. [...] the money that runs all of those organisations is from building permits [...] so, in other words, all of us [victims of this system]. [...]"
"[The Victorian Building Commission, VBA] uncovered the registration system. Effectively the registration system is, if you cannot speak English, cannot read plans, cannot write a sentence, know nothing about building, and have never seen a hammer, you would make an excellent builder. So get registered. The book, the Game of Mates, calls it the 'favour system'. It's not like you go to the doctor, the teacher, the school: These people have no qualifications. And, of course, they don't build! So, we have builders who don't build, we have surveyors who don't survey, and we have regulators who don't regulate. So, in a sense, that's it. That's all we have to really understand.
So, by 2015, they had changed the name of the [Victorian] Building Commission. They had removed everything from its 20 year history from the web."
[You cannot even find the Auditor General's 2012 report. The link from TROVE to the pdf at Auditor General's site leads to a page-error.]
In 2015, they're [...] doing the third Auditor General's report, and they've changed auditor generals and they've changed the Ombusdsman, because anyone who is putting all the facts and pointing out has to be moved on.
 Consumer Confidence and Market Experience Study Victorian Consumers CAV 2011.
"This report identifies problems in the governance and administration of the Victorian Building Commission and the manner in which it expends monies generated from its regulation.
"In March 2012 the Ombudsman's Office received information from several sources in relation to concerns about the Victorian Building Commission (the Commission). These concerns included that the Commission:
- paid contractors significant amounts for investigative services
- contracted external investigators who were former Commission staff
- made significant payments to external investigators based upon invoices which lacked detail about the amounts charged
- employed former police officers as investigators with little or no building experience
- poorly managed an information technology project which was several million dollars over budget
- operated at a significant deficit.
-This resulted in Ombudsman conducted an own motion investigation into the governance and administration of the Commission.
During the investigation additional issues were identified. These included significant expenditure by Commission staff on hospitality and entertainment and concerns about the administration and integrity of the registration system for building practitioners."
We get a lot of commercial press releases at candobetter.net and we don't use many. However this project which markets renovation for energy use reduction, rather than tearing buildings down and constructing new ones, is very interesting. The iNSPiRe project is a four year FP7 project that brings together 24 partners from the combined fields of research and development, industry, small business and not-for-profit organisations, to tackle the problem of high-energy consumption. The research will produce systemic renovation packages that can be applied to existing buildings to reduce primary energy consumption to lower than 50 kWh/m2/year.
iNSPiRe project begins testing of retrofit solutions for Europe's buildings
iNSPiRe, a project dedicated to creating effective and affordable retrofit kits for the buildings of Europe, has now begun testing its creations in three model buildings across Europe. The project is one of the leading forces pushing towards the European Union's ambitious energy-consumption reduction goals.
The European Union’s targets for the reduction of energy consumption of buildings in Europe are ambitious to say the least. To achieve them, improvements to newly constructed buildings will not be enough alone; the renovation of existing buildings into near zero-energy buildings will be essential as well.
iNSPiRe is an EC-funded project that has been creating elegant solutions to this difficult problem. After carrying out a detailed evaluation of the existing residential and office buildings in Europe, it has put together a set of meticulously designed renovation kits that can be easily installed without having to evacuate the buildings of their owners. The range of kits covers all types of buildings and all climatic conditions found in Europe. Cost effectiveness, efficiency and reliability have been the cornerstones of the project, which has recognised that any solution in this area must be attractive and viable to the construction industry.
Each of the kits has been designed with the aim of reducing the primary energy consumption of buildings to lower than 50 kWh/m2/year – an 80 per cent reduction of the current average.
The kits, which consist of façades and roof kits with integrated heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and energy-collecting devices, are now being demonstrated in a set of buildings across Europe. The first in Ludwigsburg is an example of 1970’s social housing and is made up of four flats on four stories. Here, iNSPiRe is fitting a wooden façade and roof kit as well as a heating system. In Madrid, a multiple occupancy residential building of eight flats over four stories has had energy boxes fitted as well as new envelope solutions and solar collectors. Finally, iNSPiRe’s office building solutions are being tested at a site in Verona. Here, the building is being renovated with metal-glass façade modules that combine solar collectors and sorption chillers, as well as ceiling panels that cater for heating, cooling and ventilation.
Monitoring is now taking place to assess the full impact in terms of the energy and cost savings they will create. Retrofit solutions such as those designed in the iNSPiRe project will be essential for ensuring that the Europe’s building stock of the future is as energy efficient as possible.
In its latest far-reaching and ambitious Science and Policy Report, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) placed the idea of developing and implementing energy-efficient renovation kits at the heart of its message, citing it as the only feasible way to reach and then surpass the EC’s 20-20-20 energy targets (20 per cent renewable energy and a 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency by the year 2020).