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  • Brent Williams

Is your fire-rated wall installation compliant and can you prove it?




The following article is courtesy of Plus Passive Fire -


As a company specialising in the firewall niche, we inspect and certify many firewalls and are increasingly frustrated that the same simple mistakes are made, the resulting rectification is causing unnecessary expense and program delay. Some projects have run into many thousands of dollars to bring up to standard.

Add to that - and in light of recent tragedies, court rulings, legislative changes and media attention to ongoing defects, so much more pressure is being applied to building certifiers. The result is significantly more scrutiny to prove you’ve done it right.

The outcomes from the Lacrosse case included the building surveyor firm being ordered to pay 33% of the damages.

Our research suggests that:

  • Passive Fire constitutes 3-4% of construction costs

  • Yet represents 30-40% of all defect / rectifications cost

With large sums at risk, you can be assured that your work will be increasingly inspected and scrutinised.

The world as we know it has changed – brace yourself. Regardless of which state you contract in, the advice to Building Certifiers / surveyors is to question and inspect everything. That will include certificates, test reports, approved junctions and PI insurance.

What do the test reports say….is there a Dts system for this work? Are you clear you know what that means? What are the solutions to this problem that I’m looking at? Is that compliant?


The legislation


Victoria

In 2018 the Victorian Building Authority introduced the requirement to carry out mandatory inspections for certain fire and smoke resisting elements as it was evident that construction required to resist the spread of fire was not always being carried out adequately, leaving building occupiers vulnerable in a fire scenario.

The new regulations require mandatory inspections in each storey of Class 2 or Class 3 buildings or Class 4 part of a building for items including:

  • Lightweight construction required to resist the spread of fire in at least one SOU

  • The components and junctions of the building elements listed above

The objective being to increase and improve the level of compliance for lightweight fire/smoke rated wall and floor systems in residential buildings.


New South Wales

In NSW, critical stage inspections are required in Class 1 & 10 buildings prior to the covering of the framework of any wall or roof.

In the case of a class 2, 3 or 4 building, an inspection must occur:

  • Prior to covering the junction of any internal fire-resisting construction bounding a sole-occupancy unit, and any other building element required to resist internal fire spread, an inspection of a minimum of 30% of sole-occupancy units on each storey of the building containing sole-occupancy units…etc

In class 2 – 9

  • Prior to covering of fire protection at service penetrations to building elements that are required to resist internal fire or smoke spread, an inspection of a minimum of one of each type of protection method for each type of service, on each storey of the building comprising the building work.

Queensland

In Qld to certify fire walls a Passive Fire wall & ceiling licence is required along with professional indemnity insurance.

The QBCC have always been diligent over the years however due to ongoing rectification payouts have increased random inspections on fire walls resulting in many defects requiring reworks including:

  • Boundary wall misconceptions – eg direction of fire, treatment above roofs

  • Mixing systems – Not using same manufacturer for shaftliner and internal linings

  • Open voids not treated in roof spaces of eaves and verandahs

  • No understanding of Shaftliner clip locations and requirement

  • The normal screw centres issues, insufficient screws to tiles walls

  • Track fixing must be steel – that is NO alloy anchors (Sure drives)

  • Substitution of insulation – needs to be as per tested system.

  • Caulking to joints – mixing brands, gaps, depth

  • Roof fibreglass insulation can’t pass over the fire wall

  • Non-combustible rockwool should extend from wall top to the underside of the roof sheeting or tiles, ensure min 300mm width

  • Sadly the list gone on & on.

The install guides are simply that – a guide – not necessary a route to compliance within the BCA. There may not be a tested system even though the guide says so and assessment reports are being challenged, so you need to know and have confidence before you start.

This is a simple overview of some of the many and complex issues to deal with, non compliance has many ramifications both financial and legal.

Are you keeping up to date with new products and legislation? Are you sure you’ve got it right! We can no longer rely on “I’ve always done it that way” – it doesn’t mean it’s right!

We’d suggest the use of a third-party passive fire certifier to provide understanding of the Fire Rating Level of the building, liaises with authorities and manufacturers to ensure the system you are installing is cost effective, installed correctly and meet BCA compliance. This way you will not have costly re works, saving valuable time, money on your site and maybe better still, peace of mind that there will be a trouble-free handover.




To get a copy of Plus Passive Fire ‘Fire rated wall Compliance Guide’ email sales@pluspassivefire.com.au