Changes To Fire Safety Requirements In The 2016 National Construction Codes – Could This Affect Your Project?

 

Following the Lacrosse Apartments fire in Melbourne, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) began to develop a comprehensive package of fire safety measures for high rise buildings which was to be incorporated into the next version of the National Construction Code (NCC). However, following the Grenfell Tower fire in London, the Building Ministers’ Forum issued a directive in June 2017 that the ABCB had to expedite the adoption of additional fire safety measures into the NCC.

The ACBC has announced that the 2016 NCC will be amended out-of-cycle. This amendment could have a substantial impact on projects which are currently underway.

Whilst the next version of the NCC was only due to be released in 2019, the existing 2016 NCC will be amended out-of-cycle by an amendment known as NCC 2016, Volume One Amendment 1 (Draft Amendment).

The Draft Amendment has been released for public comment and the anticipated date for adoption is March 2018. Comments on the Draft Amendment may be made by the public before 10 September 2017.

  • The introduction of a new Verification Method for testing of external wall assemblies for fire spread. This includes a new testing standard, AS 5113, to be used as part of the Verification Method, which achieves equivalence to the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions by including additional fire safety measures within the building (e.g. an enhanced sprinkler system) as a condition of using an AS 5113 tested wall assembly;
  • Increased stringency for the sprinkler protection of balconies of residential buildings through referencing of a revised AS 2118;
  • Clarifying language within the code relating to the use of external wall claddings and attachments; and
  • Revision of the NCC’s evidence of suitability provisions.

Whilst the more stringent requirements in the Draft Amendment are welcomed, the requirements should be carefully reviewed by principals and contractors alike.

Any buildings which are currently under construction could be affected by the new requirements in the Draft Amendment if completion of the building will only be certified after the Draft Amendment has been adopted.

This is particularly so if your contract requires you to comply with the current version of legislation in place at the time of completion.

If the Draft Amendment is adopted in March 2018, buildings completed after that date may have to comply with the new requirements in the Draft Amendment notwithstanding that the building was designed long before the adoption of the Draft Amendment.

This could have substantial cost implications and could lead to delays in the obtaining of occupation certificates for such buildings.