Design and Construction of Fire Systems
The Building Act
The Building Act 2004 sets out the rules for the construction, alteration, demolition and maintenance of new and existing buildings in New Zealand, and has four main goals:
people can use buildings safely and without endangering their health
buildings have attributes that contribute appropriately to the health, physical independence and wellbeing of the people who use them
people who use a building can escape from the building if it is on fire
buildings are designed, constructed and able to be used in ways that promote sustainable development.
Fire Safety and the Building Code
There are six Building Code clauses related to fire safety. The aims of these clauses are to protecting people in and around buildings, limit fire spread and help firefighting and rescue teams do their jobs swiftly and safely.
For information about building owners’ responsibility to ‘maintain active and passive systems according to their compliance schedule’ see Specified systems and compliance schedules. Note that Change of use and building alterations can trigger the need for upgrades to a building’s fire safety systems. Record of amendments is a record of changes and Protection from fire on the MBIE website has additional information on MBIE’s fire engineering project priorities.
When do you need a Fire Report?
Building Consent Authorities (BCA) generally require a Fire Report with any building consent needed in the event of new buildings, alterations to an existing building, changes to the use of a building, subdivision of land that affects a building, or the extension of the life of a building beyond its specified life.
Understandably, fire safety provisions for commercial buildings are more complex and extensive than for residential buildings, as they can be expected to have higher fire loads and a bigger impact on public safety.
When do you need a Fire evacuation scheme?
The FENZ Regulations state that the owner of any building is required to have an evacuation procedure in place for the safe, prompt and efficient evacuation of the building’s occupants in the event of a fire emergency. If the building falls into the category of a relevant building as set out in the FENZ Act 2017, then the owner must apply for a FENZ approved evacuation scheme. In sections 76 to 79 of the FENZ Act, relevant building means a building or part of a building used for 1 or more of the following purposes:
(a) the gathering together, for any purpose, of 100 or more persons:
(b) providing employment facilities for 10 or more persons:
(c) providing accommodation for 6 or more persons (other than in 3 or few-er household units):
(d) a place where hazardous substances are present in quantities exceeding the prescribed minimum amounts, whatever the purpose for which the building is used:
(e) providing an early childhood education and care centre (other than in a household unit):
(f) providing nursing, medical, or geriatric care (other than in a household unit):
(g) providing specialised care for persons with disabilities (other than in a household unit):
(h) providing accommodation for persons under lawful detention (not being persons serving a sentence of home detention or community detention, or serving a sentence of imprisonment on home detention, or on parole subject to residential restrictions imposed under section 15 of the Parole Act 2002):
(i) any other prescribed purpose.
Owners of buildings with an automatic sprinkler system that meets the criteria set out in the Regulations, and are only used for either (b) employment facilities for 10 or more persons or (c) providing accommodation for 6 or more persons (but not both) do not need an approved scheme, but they must notify FENZ in writing that the building does not need an evacuation scheme.
From Fire Design to Building Consent
When Fire Safety Design and Specification requirements are met, met a Local Authority will issue a building consent.
Producer Statements are documentation that may be requested by the BCA at crucial stages of building design and construction process. Note: Producer statements are not specifically included in the 2004 Building Act but are still in common use as a means for Councils to confirm compliance.
PS1: Issued at Design Stage to record the design criteria and methodology
PS2: Complex designs may be reviewed and confirmed by an independent suitably qualified professional
PS3: At Construction Stage this document records a statement from the organisation constructing or installing the system/building regarding materials used and methods employed.
PS4: The Construction Review is a statement confirming that the system was constructed in accordance with building consents and relevant standards.
Building Warrant of Fitness (BWoF)
A BWoF verifies that the inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures for all the specified systems within a building have been carried out in accordance with the Compliance Schedule for the previous 12 months.
Construction and Compliance Schedules
Each Local Building Authority controls the process of issuing BWoF’s by means of Compliance Schedules – from construction, and throughout the life of the building.
A Building Warrant of Fitness ensures that Fire Protection systems will perform as expected, and have been designed and installed to comply with the NZ Building Code requirements at the time of installation. Producer statements 3 and 4 are submitted to the Local Authority, who will inspect the building and issue a code compliance certificate to confirm that the building and systems have been constructed in accordance with the relevant building code requirements.
However a Building Warrant of Fitness (BWoF) must be renewed continually to ensure that the Fire Protection systems are tested and maintained at regular intervals and will operate as they were designed to.
The Compliance Schedule issued by the Local Authority specifies which building systems must be inspected, tested and maintained, according to what standards, who should inspect them, and how frequently. The Building Act states that the building owner must obtain annual written reports from independent inspectors (IQPs) relating to the inspection, maintenance, and reporting procedures of the Compliance Schedule.
The term Specified System refers to a system or feature that is contained within a building for the primary purpose of maintaining health or life safety of building users e.g. fire alarms, sprinklers, ventilation systems, etc. Because they are designed to save lives, specified systems must have ongoing inspection and maintenance. To create a methodology for these procedures, a building with specified systems requires a compliance schedule (except for households).
Inspection, Maintenance & Performance Testing
The Building Act requires that each specified system have inspection and maintenance procedures to ensure the system continues to perform to the performance standards set. Fire protection systems must be inspected and tested regularly to ensure they operate as expected, to protect people and property. Both planned preventative maintenance and responsive maintenance should be carried out, based on published Standards or recommendations made by the designer, manufacturer or supplier.
The Building Act requires that a specified system must be inspected and maintained to ensure that it performs to the specified standard. If a specified system is designed and installed to an Acceptable Solution, Verification Method, Standard or specific documentation, this will set the performance standard for that specified system.