Residential Pools and Spas

Infinity pools under threat in NSW from new laws

July 16, 2013
Pools such as this which use the spillover wall as an effective barrier will no longer be allowed in New South Wales after ‘overnight’ changes to the BCA

Respected pool designer Peter Glass has raised serious concerns about the “overnight” changes to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) that will have considerable impact on pool design and construction.

In particular, he is worried about New South Wales’ adoption in May of a part of the BCA that means that pools built partially out of the ground can no longer consider a non-scalable pool wall with a minimum height of 1.2m as an effective barrier.

However, these types of pool walls have been treated as barriers in NSW for a long time on many sites and it is an important element in building highly attractive, top-end infinity-edge pools.

“This ‘overnight’ change, which has meant that it is now illegal to design and build many of the swimming pools typically designed by my company, was both a complete surprise to the pool industry as well as certifiers and BCA experts – and a complete contradiction of the recently released 2012 Australian Standard, which clearly differentiates between ‘aboveground’ and ‘out of the ground’,” says Glass.

“In relation to this latter item, submissions to the Premier, the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Infrastructure, seeking clarification of how this could have occurred, have been made by me and others. Despite following this matter up on a near-daily basis for the past six weeks or so, we are still seeking a satisfactory answer to this question.”

Glass says that part of the problem is that there is a maze of different regulations to adhere to in relation to swimming pools, which in some cases contradict each other.

“A simple, plain-English Australia-wide pool barrier/fencing code, based on the well-considered and well-respected Australian Standards for Swimming Pool Barriers, is long overdue,” he says.

“Unfortunately the numerous add-on documents that currently comprise pool fencing legislation in NSW (and elsewhere in Australia) have ensured that pool barrier legislation remains cumbersome, confusing and still too open to interpretation.”

Glass is continuing to approach relevant government departments about this issue, but says none seem eager to accept responsibility.

Meanwhile, The Swimming Pool & Spa Alliance has lodged a submission with the NSW Government and Spiros Dassakis is looking for input prior to an anticipated meeting with the Minister of Local Government, Don Page. As a guide, the following could be taken into account when supplying input:

1) How these changes are affecting your business
2) What is the general price you charge for of an out of ground / infinity edge pool
3) An estimate of the number of out of ground / infinity edge pools you previously built on an annual basis
4) An estimate of the number of out of ground / infinity edge pools do you think you will build this year based on consumer feedback to these changes
5) What portion of your business will be affected if you are unable to build these types of pools
6) What financial impact will this have on your overall business
7) What other implications do you feel may occur as a result of these changes. Eg: staffing resources, downsizing etc
8) What flow on effect do you think will occur to other related markets/industries such as concrete, materials, professional services etc
9) What additional costs do you foresee the customer being charged in making out of ground / infinity edge pools compliant
10) Any possible advantage you can see in the new BCA change
11) Anything else you feel may be relevant

There will be more on this topic in the upcoming 90th edition of SPLASH!, due out in August.


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