This article about refurbishment work and their possible impact on fire safety in Western Australia has been written by Greg McCulloch, Westside Fire Services.
All refurbishment work is required to comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and must not impact on the fire safety of the occupants of the existing building.
Proposed Refurbishment Work
Proposed refurbishment which may appear minor in nature may have a significant impact on fire safety. For example, when considering changes to an apartment entry fire door, its frame or hardware could compromise its fire safety certification and integrity.
Other common BCA fire safety compliance matters in respect to refurbishment works that may require attention include (but are not limited to):
- Providing appropriate fire protection to penetrations made through fire rated construction (such as walls and floors). This can include sealing for fire-proofing around pipes. Fire collars or dampers may also be required. Please note in some cases service penetrations may not be permitted through fire rated construction.
- Ensuring the suitability of external cladding on existing buildings.
- Ensuring appropriate fire hazard properties for floor coverings such as carpet or types of vinyl.
- Checking that the existing fire strategy, which may include performance solutions, is not being compromised by the proposed refurbishment works.
- The impact on fire safety if enclosing balconies.
- Making changes in a fire safety system. For example, replacing smoke detectors with heat detectors in smoke detection and alarm system may require consultation with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
Any plans to upgrade an existing building must have the safety of occupants as the first priority – over and
above any aesthetic or cost considerations.
Consult with the relevant local government permit authority before starting any building work to determine whether the work requires a building permit.
Existing Refurbishment Work
The Western Australian Building Commission urges building owners and managers to review the fire safety of existing buildings to confirm that previous building work has not left building occupants vulnerable in the event of a fire. An appropriately qualified registered building surveyor, with relevant knowledge of the BCA, can coordinate a fire safety assessment of the existing building. Complex buildings with fire safety performance solutions and older high rise buildings that may have had a number of ad hoc alterations throughout their life may also require review by a suitably qualified fire safety engineer.
This post appears in Strata News #293.
Have a question about refurbishment work and the impact it will have on your fire safety or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
Please note this advice was provided prior to the proclamation of the new strata title amendments and will be updated in due course.
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