Fire precautions during construction for commercial and residential developments (Class 2-9 buildings)

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

As part of the VBA's Proactive Inspection Program, the Inspection Services Team has identified commercial and major residential development sites where fire precautions for buildings under construction do not comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
Builders, site supervisors and project managers have told the VBA of difficulties in having fire services installed and connected to the water supply during construction. Regardless of these difficulties, appropriate fire-fighting equipment must be installed and available in the event of a fire during construction. 

What do the Regulations say?

Performance Requirements EP1.5 of the BCA, Volume One of the National Construction Code Series (NCC), sets out the requirements for fire precautions in a building under construction. The Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions of Part E1.9 of the BCA, Volume One of the NCC, also set out fire precaution requirements in a building under construction.

What should be done?

Fire precautions during construction are mandatory for any Class 2-9 building, with different requirements depending on the size and/or stage of the development or the type of performance solutions adopted. The Fire Authority's conditions listed in the Consent and Report under Regulation 309 must also be met.

Builders and site supervisors need to ensure suitable fire extinguishers are installed on each storey of the building, no matter what size and/or stage of the construction work. Fire extinguishers must be located adjacent to each required exit or temporary stairway or exit.

Where the building has reached a height of 12 metres or more, fully compliant and operational fire hose reels and fire hydrants must be installed on every storey, except the top two. If the fire hydrant design incorporates a booster connection, this must also be installed and comply with the relevant Australian Standards.

Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004

Fire precautions during construction also have implications for employers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. If a fire occurs on a building site under construction and WorkSafe Victoria suspects a breach of the regulation, WorkSafe may refer the matter to the VBA for investigation for offences or breaches under the Building Act 1993.

What can you, as a Practitioner do?

Designers or architects- ensure approved plans include enough information to enable the builder to comply with the requirements.

Fire service designers- ensure that fire services can be constructed, commissioned and are fully operational in stages, in step with construction.

Builders, site supervisors and project managers- ensure the required fire precautions are installed in the building while under construction.

Building surveyors, building inspectors and engineers- when reviewing an application for a building permit, building surveyors need to consider compliance with EP1.5 and E1.9 of the BCA. Before inspecting any site, building surveyors, building inspectors and engineers should inspect the fire services and not approve any inspection stage where they are non-existent or non-compliant.

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