We recently sat down with Richard Choy, CEO at NATSPEC to find out more about the important projects NATSPEC are involved in, advocating for a sustainable future and their partnership with IPWEA.
Q: How long have you worked at NATSPEC and how did you come to be there?
A: I joined NATSPEC at the end of 2004 after many years working within engineering and architecture. I commenced my involvement with professional and industry associations at university and found that this is where I really learnt the practical information that I could use professionally. I learnt to differentiate theory from practice, and value the worth of others’ experience. Learning “what not to do” is often provided during networking and not within formal presentations. Associations like IPWEA instilled my desire to “give back” to the industry and I was honoured to be elected to executive positions within different associations.
I joined NATSPEC because it is a role where I can combine my technical, management, and communication skills to assist the industry and its participants. There are always new challenges, new things to learn, and we have a wonderful team at NATSPEC.
Q: What does NATSPEC do?
A: NATSPEC is a national not-for-profit organisation owned by Government and industry. Our objective is to improve the construction quality and productivity of the sustainable built environment through leadership of information. Since 1975 we have maintained and updated the National Building Specification for Government and quality projects. We also developed the National BIM Guide, and the National Construction Product Register (NCPR).
In 2007 IPWEA asked us to maintain and update their local government specification AUS-SPEC. AUS-SPEC covers all local government infrastructure assets and is used alongside NATSPEC for local governments’ building assets. As a national system, AUS-SPEC promotes uniformity and good practice in asset development, management and maintenance, and provides for implementing local requirements.
Q: What is the most important project NATSPEC has been involved in, in recent times?
A: NATSPEC partners with Government and industry on many important projects relating to design and construction information, public procurement, building information, and sustainability. Our release of the AUS-SPEC Rural Roads Specification Package in 2018 responds to the challenges faced by regional, rural and remote councils.
The two recent projects that are most satisfying to me are the ongoing release of information for universal design of buildings, and our research into recycled material for roadworks. One project is to assist Australia’s aging and diverse population, and the other reflects our desire to ensure a sustainable future.
Q: How is NATSPEC advocating for best practice Asset Management and / or Asset Maintenance?
A: NATSPEC advocates for best practice asset management and asset maintenance by collecting and sharing the collective wisdom of the industry. NATSPEC’s services including the National Building Specifications, AUS-SPEC specifications for minor infrastructure, National BIM Guide and associated documents, and the National Construction Product Register (NCPR). Each of these services focus on improving construction quality and asset management. Much of our information is freely available from our website, and we encourage practitioners to continuously keep up to date.
AUS-SPEC, which is a joint project with IPWEA, disseminates information through TECHguides, TECHnotes and worksection templates for asset delivery, contracts management, and asset maintenance frameworks for roads, urban and open spaces, buildings and public utilities. These templates can be implemented by local government to manage their community assets. The successful use of AUS-SPEC has been highlighted in the 3 case studies published in the recently released 6th Edition of the IIMM. The case studies feature examples from Councils on how they have used the AUS-SPEC specification system for developing a maintenance plan, defining levels of service for footpath maintenance and Infrastructure delivery and contracting options featuring a road extension project.
AUS-SPEC provides information for the life cycle management of assets. To extend the life cycle of assets a proactive maintenance management system should be in place. Each asset class in AUS-SPEC is managed against an asset maintenance plan and each of the maintenance activities has an associated expected cost. Therefore, the asset maintenance plan is both an activity plan and a financial plan that supports both short-term budgeting and long-term financial planning processes.
Q: How has COVID impacted the role of NATSPEC in public works and infrastructure development?
A: NATSPEC and AUS-SPEC probably became more important during the COVID period because practitioners and asset managers reviewed their documentation systems and realised that they needed access to trusted information. For local councils there was a desire to improve the planning and management of assets, and AUS-SPEC was a natural solution. NATSPEC continued to provide our construction information service to the industry even during the unprecedented circumstances in 2020. We provided the 2020 April NATSPEC update and 2020 October NATSPEC and AUS-SPEC updates. We continued to work collaboratively with Government Departments and various external industry organisations by participating in joint webinars with IPWEA NSW, Local Government Procurement, Australian Society of Concrete Pavement and Australian Flexible Pavement Association.
Q: What do you envision is the future of the industry?
A: The built environment will continue to evolve, and creative solutions are required from practitioners that must remain relevant for future generations. Resource constraints will continue to challenge public works engineers. Along with problem solving, communication will be a key skill. Digital tools will enable efficiency and productivity gains by identifying optimum solutions for different selection criteria. Projects will be developed, constructed, and maintained on a precinct level with consideration to challenging climatic conditions and sustainability criteria. Greater emphasis will be placed on societal and consumer benefit.
Q: What is the best part of your role?
A: The best part of my job is meeting and working with the fantastic people of our industry. There are so many knowledgeable and experienced people to learn from, to challenge my ideas, and to give back to the industry. I am constantly learning and will always love the design and construction industry and the many people that have been, and will be, part of my never-ending journey.
You can find out more about NATSPEC and AUS-SPEC Here
Richard Choy is CEO of NATSPEC, a national not-for-profit with the objective to improve the construction quality and productivity of the built environment through leadership of information. Richard has extensive design and construction experience working within engineering, architecture and industry associations. He is currently a member of the Australian Building Codes Board, on the Executive of the Australasian BIM Advisory Board and President of the International Construction Information Society. He was previously National President of the Concrete Institute of Australia, and Vice-President of the Building Science Forum of Australia.