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Tom Roberts

Our birthday Standards Heroes have been nominated by their peers to represent all our contributors - individuals we consider to be the real heroes of standards, in Australia and internationally. We thank those who contribute their knowledge and expertise, service, and time to Standards Australia for the benefit of the Australian community.  

Tom Roberts is Director – NCC Management and Standards at the Australian Building Codes Board.    

How did you become involved in standards development? 

I first became involved in standards development when I left my plumbing and gas fitting business to provide technical advice and training with the Master Plumbers Association (MPA). MPA is an industry association represented as a nominating organisation on numerous Standards Australia Technical Committees across the water and waste services sector.  

I joined the Australian Building Codes Board 10 years ago and, during this time, I have been involved in numerous committees across Standards Australia’s building construction, oil and gas and water and waste services sectors. These  different committees are responsible for the development of Australian Standards referenced in the National Construction Code and WaterMark Certification Scheme for plumbing and drainage products.

What role have standards played in your career?   

Australian Standards have played a huge part in every aspect of my career. Starting out as a plumber running my own business I had to regularly interpret and use many standards such as AS/NZS 5601.1, Gas installations and the AS/NZS 3500 series for plumbing and drainage.  

From a user of standards, I then moved into education and where I provided training and technical interpretations of codes, standards and legislation. The skills and knowledge I have developed in using and educating on standards has proved invaluable in the development of codes and standards.  

In my current role as Director – Plumbing, with the Australian Building Codes Board, I am responsible for the development of the Plumbing Code of Australia to the link state and territory legislation and technical Australian Standards.  

What is a project you’ve been particularly proud to have helped deliver? 

I sit on a number of Standards Australia Technical Committees; however, I would have to say some of the work conducted by WS-014 in the development of the AS/NZS 3500 series for plumbing and drainage would be an area I’m particularly proud to have been a part of.  

These standards are the principal pathway for compliance with the Plumbing Code of Australia and undergo a large volume of change each three years in line with the amendment cycle of the National Construction Code.  

I was also proud to have been involved in the development of AS/NZS 6400, Water efficient products, and the leadership role that Australia has played bringing these water saving initiatives to the international market through the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO).    

Outside of standards development, what have been some highlights of your career? 

In my career I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in addressing some big issues that the plumbing and construction industry has faced. With each edition of the National Construction Code (NCC) comes a wide range of changes to both the NCC and the referenced standards and being at the core of investigating and addressing some of these significant changes has been a real privilege.  

A specific highlight would also be the recent work of the Australian Building Codes Board in reducing the allowable levels of lead permitted in plumbing products. This project took a large amount of research, analysis and consultation with governments, effected stakeholders and, of course, the Standards Australia Technical committees responsible for products effected by this change. This reduction should see some significant health benefits achieved in Australia and I’m proud to have taken a leading role in this change.

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

The future of standardisation looks promising with some significant innovations ensuring that standards are more accessible such as the new distribution framework, subscription options, standards bundles and digitisation initiatives.  

I also see a greater level of participation from both committee members benefiting from virtual meetings, but also from standards users through the updated public consultation and project proposal systems.  

It has never been easier to get feedback and involvement directly from the users of different Australian Standards. All of these initiatives will go a long way to ensuring greater collaboration in the development of standards and the best outcomes for the end users and community.  

Is there anything you’d like to say or mention about Standards Australia’s centenary year? 

I am proud to have played a small part in Standards Australia’s 100 years. It’s an important milestone for an organisation which is at the centre of every aspect of the lives of all Australians. It’s a great opportunity to acknowledge the work that all committee members, nominating organisations and Standards Australia have played in creating a healthy, safe and sustainable future for Australia.  

Hopefully by reflecting on some of Standards Australia’s achievements over the last century we can inspire the next generation of standards contributors.