Industry News

ABCB farewells its longest standing officer

23/07/2020
Kevin presentation at Standards Australia

The ABCB thanks Kevin Newhouse for his invaluable contribution over the last 24 years and all his colleagues and friends wish him well as he plans for his future after working at the ABCB.

Whilst working out his`to do list' after his departure, both Kevin and the ABCB Office reflect on his contributions and achievements during his outstanding career with the ABCB.

Some of Kevin’s accomplishments

Kevin has worked tirelessly on the amendment and production of nearly all editions of the BCA, PCA and NCC. He has been the face of the Office in its interactions with both the Building and Plumbing Code Committees and received the highest accolade by Standards Australia in the form of the W.R. Hebblewhite Medal in 2018 for his expert contribution to the development of countless Australian Standards. Kevin was also instrumental in work associated with the introduction of the Premises Standards for access for people with a disability. In 2019, he was awarded an Australia Day Medallion by the Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science for his contribution to the work of the ABCB and the building industry.

The Board, at its June 2020 meeting, passed a formal resolution of thanks to Kevin for his services and we wish him well as he moves on.

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We now hear from Kevin himself about his time with the ABCB and what’s in store for the future.

Where did your career begin and what attracted you to working with the ABCB?

My career began as a building surveyor in a council in NSW. At that time, all building approvals and inspections were undertaken by councils and most building surveyors were also qualified environmental health officers.

In the early 1990s, I took up a position with the Northern Territory Government agency that had responsibility for building and plumbing control throughout the territory. Working in the NT provided a unique opportunity to be involved in building and plumbing regulatory and policy activities that, in larger jurisdictions and at that time, were typically split between state and local government. The agency was responsible not only for plan approvals and inspections but also the regulatory system itself. During my time in the NT, the regulatory system was changed to facilitate the introduction of private certification. The NT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to do this.

Having worked at the local and territory government levels, it was inevitable that my next career move would be to a national agency. I joined the ABCB just before the official launch of the first edition of Australia’s performance-based building code in 1996. For a person with an interest and background in building and plumbing regulation, the opportunity to work for an organisation established as a cooperative arrangement between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and working in the national interest was an opportunity too good to pass up. Working at the ABCB also gave me the opportunity to learn from so many code, standards and regulatory experts.

What would you consider as being the most challenging part of your job during this time?

It has been said that the process of reaching consensus should be more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Reaching consensus with a broad range of stakeholder interests can be challenging, but if done using a truly consultative and objective process, the challenges usually convert into opportunities and better outcomes for all.

What do you see as being the most significant or memorable change to the building industry in your career?

From a regulatory perspective, the change from government-based to private building certification had an enormous effect on some individuals, organisations and how the industry does business. Weighing the pros and cons of private certification has been the subject of many reviews over the years and still attracts commentary today, as evidenced by the recommendations of the Building Confidence Report commissioned by Building Ministers and prepared by Professor Peter Shergold AC and Ms Bronwyn Weir in 2018.

What contribution are you most proud of?

I don’t think in terms of individual contributions because the very nature of how the ABCB operates means that many people both within and outside the organisation are part of achieving outcomes. One thing that spans years of my time at the ABCB, and before, is the efforts to reduce the number of state and territory variations to the national code. When the national building code was first adopted, state and territory variations were as voluminous as the code itself. A concerted effort by the Australian Uniform Building Regulations Co-ordinating Council (AUBRCC), effectively the ABCB’s predecessor, followed by the ABCB itself and with the cooperation of all States and Territories has resulted in a significant reduction in these variations over time. This, in turn, has unlocked the benefits to industry and the community that flow from national consistency. I am very proud to have been involved in that process and to have played a small part in what was achieved. However, there is more work to be done in this space and it still remains a focus of the current Intergovernmental Agreement under which the ABCB operates.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to have a career in this industry?

Leon C. Megginson, Professor of Management and Marketing at Louisiana State University, when writing in 1963, paraphrased Charles Darwin as follows, "According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself". The building and construction space is constantly evolving. Anyone who wants a career (rather than just a job) in this industry needs to think about this proposition.

After your departure, what are you most looking forward to?

Spending more time with my other family, and slowly working my way through a list of tasks that seems to have been populated mostly by people other than myself!

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