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Changes To Fire Safety Standards For All Buildings
06 August 2018
written by  Richard Hensley

As of October 1, 2017, amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment regulation came into effect to strengthen the level of fire protection services installed within buildings. The new measures apply to commercial, industrial, multi-unit residential and institutional buildings, but not houses.

The intent of the amendments is not necessarily to increase the cost associated with building works but rather to improve the processes of accountability and compliance. Most importantly, the regulation is directed squarely at building owners to take far more responsibility for fire safety provisions and systems.

The amendments have implications for all building owners, especially owners who are considering renovations and major works. An Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) is an assessment and declaration that buildings are complying with fire safety standards. The same applies to exit system breaches. It is no longer sufficient for building owners to complete the AFSS. One of the amendment’s key initiatives is an accreditation scheme for “competent fire safety practitioners”.

 

Competent FIre Safety Practitioners

The role of the “competent fire safety practitioner” is to acquire the skills to assess a building’s fire safety measures and to inspect for fire exit system compliance before they issue building owners with their AFSS.

Prior to these amendments, building owners were required to engage a properly qualified person to conduct an assessment of their fire safety standards. Now, owners are required to provide a written opinion as to why their “competent fire safety practitioner” is qualified to carry out the assessments in accordance with the criteria stipulated in the regulation.

Rather than being an endorsement, the written opinion will address the competent fire safety practitioner’s ability to understand the regulation and their proven competency in the following:

  • Hydraulic fire safety system (sprinklers, hydrants, hose reels and drenchers)
  • Fire detection and alarm systems
  • Alternative solutions
  • Mechanical smoke control systems
  • To endorse any objections lodged with the certifying authority about compliance with any of the specified provisions in the Building Code of Australia (BCA). These relate to the operational performance of a fire safety system and whether the certifying authority is imposing requirements that are unreasonable or unnecessary.
 

Like any amendments, the industry is still coming to terms with how the changes will impact Development Applications (DAs) and Complying Development Certificates (CDCs). At DA or CDC stage, the new arrangements do not require full working drawings. However, in a building work involving the installation of the relevant fire safety system, plans are to show the layout, extent and location of key components of the relevant fire safety system. And where there is a modification or extension of the relevant fire safety system, drawings should show the layout, extent and location of the new or modified components.

Furthermore, specifications will need to be submitted that describe the basis of design, installation and construction of the fire safety system and which provisions of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) the design of the system is based upon. All of the plans and specifications will have had to have been endorsed by a competent fire safety practitioner.

QVS have compliance and contract partners to nominate and provide highly competent experts as “competent fire safety practitioners”. QVS are dedicated to maintaining building, fire and disability standards to create safer and more diverse workplaces.

QVS Interiors design and create functional, professional and innovative office and corporate spaces. Offices by QVS Interiors feature high levels of personalisation to meet the culture, personality and needs of your office while cleverly ‘future proofing’ your office for growth, change, adaptability and flexibility. Considering an office fit-out? Looking for a design that reflects the values, personality and culture of your organisation? Call QVS Interiors ….