This week our guest contributor Rebecca Robins discusses the issues around accredited and non-accredited NatHERS Assessors.
In the NatHERS world there are two types of Assessors; those of us who are accredited and those who are not.
The interesting thing about this is that it is a unique situation within the construction and other industries in Australia. It presents some interesting challenges for the industry, especially when it comes to consistency and comparison.
NatHERS is a relatively new industry in construction industry terms. It wasn’t until NatHERS Assessors came along in the late 90’s that the major Australian builders realised that putting insulation in walls was a good way to achieve their minimum compliance.
So, that was over 20 years ago. There was one very simple software package option and none of us were accredited, just trained. Towards the end of the century and as assessor numbers grew, various State, private organisations and people worked to at least mandated minimum training standards, usually followed by an exam. Quality assurance was also introduced at this point.
Now we move forward to the present day. Many of the State bodies have moved away from managing Assessors, leaving it up to the Assessor Accrediting Organisations (AAO), ABSA, BDAV and more recently HERA. The AAO’s are then required to ensure Assessors practice under the guidelines of the National NatHERS Administrator (NatHERS).
The big issue is, not all assessors have to be accredited. Somewhere from 1997 until now, real consistency in assessor activities has been lost.
If you look at accreditation, licencing, Board admission or even membership of professional bodies, in general, Australian service providers must hold one or more of these to be able to practice their trade. This tells the consumer that the person they have hired has the qualifications, knowledge and insurance to do their job. If we go beyond construction and look at say, your local accountant you want to see the degree on the wall and that they are a Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA).
And then there is us.
The States and Territories control whether NatHERS Assessors must be accredited. The only two jurisdictions to have done this are NSW and the ACT (Licencing). A number of others ‘highly recommend it’ or state that, as per the NCC, ‘persons conducting assessments must be suitably qualified and one way of demonstrating this is to be accredited with an AAO’. The second method was successful for many years in encouraging accreditation but once the loophole was exposed, (around 2014-15) accreditation in those states dropped significantly, almost to the point of non-existence.
The NatHERS Protocol spells out how ACCREDITED Assessors are to be quality assured, signed to a Code of Practice, insured, disciplined and practice under the guidelines as set out by NatHERS. But what about those deeming themselves ‘suitably qualified’. These ‘assessors’ are supposed to abide by their software users licence agreement and purchase certificates, but what isn’t known is how the assessment has been done. There are no requirements to follow the Technical Note. Can building A and building B done by an accredited and non-accredited Assessor really be compared if consistency cannot be guaranteed?
It raises more and more questions, advantages, disadvantages and possible solutions:
- Why are we the only industry that does not require accreditation?
- Why won’t some jurisdictions require accreditation of NatHERS Assessors?
- Why are accredited Assessors so strictly quality assured when unaccredited assessors operate in an unregulated environment?
- Are accredited assessors and their clients being unfairly disadvantaged financially and in ability to derive desired results amongst other things?
- What information or guidelines does a non-accredited Assessor used when faced with tricky data entry?
- Is the goal of the NCC really being achieved when we estimate more than 50% of assessors are unaccredited?
- Could the Federal Government take over this part of the building legislation when the rest is State and Territory controlled?
- Would a bottom up approach work? i.e. start at Local Government level (it’s actually how NatHERS came into NSW)
- Would including at least a Certificate IV in the software licence agreement help?
Most importantly it begs the question ‘Are consumers getting what they pay for?’
I am sure you can think of more advantages, disadvantages and possible solutions – please add to the comments section below.