Applying the BCA

The ABC of the BCA

This phrase “ABC of the BCA” is a simple but memorable one that I made up years ago. As a building certifier it has become an incredibly useful tool and has helped me to do my job well, every day. It does not matter if you are just starting a design, if you are halfway through a design, if you are looking at a building under construction, or if you are inspecting a fully completed building. If you apply this simple “ABC of the BCA” rule, you will begin to easily establish what you need to know and where to find it.

This method is applicable to Volume One of the BCA, which is for Class 2 to 9 buildings not houses and sheds. This is fortunate because Volume One can often seem to be a very complex document as there is so much information and it does not appear to be in any logical sequence to facilitate design or construction. Most of us are process orientated and when something lacks logical structure, it becomes more complicated. This is why the “ABC of the BCA” helps. It structures the application of the BCA into a logical process that we can all remember and apply.

Ok let’s start.

To make this easier, we have broken up the ABC training into three stages:


Stage 1: Know the Sections

Firstly, you need to know that the BCA is broken up into 10 Sections, and listed from A to J. Do you know the title of each of these Sections? No, don’t look in the book. Do you know what they are from memory?
If you can’t answer that, then this is your first bit of homework: learn these titles, and know them by heart. If I ask you to name ‘Section E’ of the BCA, you should be able to say: ‘Services and Equipment’. Now I didn’t look. I know it by heart.

I have prepared this simple A to J list for you to make it easier.

Once you have done your homework, you should now know about a quarter of the “ABC to the BCA”.


Stage 2: Learn the Parts

This is on the job training. Next time you have a BCA question, think back to the section titles starting from A, and find the heading that best relates to the subject at hand. And do this without the book. Now, go to that Section and learn the Parts of that Section. There is only a maximum of five parts to each Section so they are not hard to remember. If you keep doing this every time you need to apply the BCA, you will soon find you are going straight to the relevant Part not just the Section.


Stage 3: Becoming a walking-talking BCA

I have by no means perfected this ability, but whenever I am asked a question related to the BCA, I come very close to the right clause most the time. Stage 3 is when you start to learn the actual clause numbers and headings of the clauses, and you may even begin to remember what the clauses actually say. This is also a time when you seriously consider whether you might need to start seeing a psychologist.

Seriously though, it is amazing how much time you can save by applying this simple technique. Even by just doing Stages 1 and 2, you will actually find that over time, you will move naturally through Stage 3 with little effort. It is really that simple. You just have to stay aware every time you need to apply the BCA.

For example, you might have a question about fire rated doors. Your mind should immediately start working through the method. Like this: “Section C Fire Resistance, Part C3 Protection of Openings”. There are only 17 clauses in Part C3 so you should be well on your way to finding the answer you need. What I am trying to show is that if you have a structure in your mind that you can quickly follow, it will point you in the right direction.



Now I understand you have not done all the homework or training just yet, but I want you to imagine you are standing outside your workplace, or any another building, and you are about to walk through it. Take a look at the structure and the features of the building, and think about how you would apply the BCA.
Now if I were you, this is the process that would be going through my mind. Please note, this will not be perfect, as I am not using the book but simply my memory and the “ABC of the BCA” method.

A – Building Classification

What is the Classification or Classifications of the building?

B – Structure

I will come back to this when I need it, but I know it is here.

C – Fire Resistance

What is the rise in stories?

What is the type of construction?
Is the type of construction controlled by floor area or volume?
Is the building large isolated?
What parts of the building should have fire rating?
What openings need protection.

D – Access and Egress

Are there enough exits?
What is the population?
Is the travel distance to the exits okay?
Do I need fire isolated exits?
Are the exits protected?
Are the exits constructed correctly?
Is there equitable access to and within, from the street and the carpark?

E – Services and equipment

Is the building more than 500 m2?
Where are the hydrants and hose reels?
Where are the extinguishers?
Do I need sprinklers?
Smoke hazard management, is it required? How is it achieved?
Do I need a lift in this building?
Emergency lighting: Is this required?

F – Health and Amenity

Waterproofing: Basements, floors, walls, roofs, and wet areas.
Sanitary facilities: Is there enough? Don’t forget assessable and ambulant facilities.
Shower, baths and other facilities in special buildings like hospitals.
Room heights: Have they been achieved?
Natural light and ventilation: How is that achieved?

G – Ancillary provisions

Are there cold rooms or safes in this building?
Are there fireplaces?
Does the building have an atrium?
Are we in a bushfire area?

H – Special Use Buildings

Is this a theatre or public hall?
Does it have a stage?
Is this a public transport building?

I – It’s blank so forget it.

J – Energy Efficiency

Building fabric


If you get the book out, it will be obvious that I have not thought of everything. However, you can see that by simply going through the alphabet from A to J, knowing what they all mean, and knowing their parts as well as the sections, I have been able to start to get a clear understanding of the building and where it sits with respect to compliance with the BCA.

Once you learn these ABC stages, you will start to naturally apply this method when you come across building questions while you do your job. You will also find you are automatically building these resources up in your own mind, allowing you to either apply or be able to quickly reference the BCA as needed.

So there you have it. Just remember the “ABC to the BCA” and apply it every day. In no time, you will be surprised what you know and how quickly you can apply it.

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I am a Director of Devcert and have been a Building Surveyor since 1989. I have a bachelor degree in building surveying and I am a qualified carpenter. I have been in the construction industry since 1981. I have a real passion for the building certification profession as I believe building certifiers are the general practitioners of the construction industry. Our role is not only to know building law and apply it, our role includes assisting in the development of the knowledge of all in the industry by sharing our knowledge and experience.