Buildings Fire Safety Systems Manual - Reducing Compliance Risk

June 6, 2017

A building fire safety systems manual is a simple and cost effective tool to assist in maintaining the compliance of fire safety measures as a building is modified over time.

There is an increasing focus on the requirement for baseline data to verify the compliance of fire safety systems. The Australian Standard AS 1851-2012 for maintenance of fire safety systems further clarifies the need and requirement for accurate and up to date data. While the collection of information can become a complex task, a building fire safety systems manual can be a simple solution to address compliance.

Building compliance issues are often caused by changes to fire systems in accordance with current codes and standards, without consideration of the original design standard and/or the features of the system. This is particularly common in multi-tenanted buildings with regular churn. The building can inadvertently be brought into non-compliance, in multiple areas, through a series of minor alterations. This is frequently caused by a lack of readily available and accurate information on the building’s fire safety systems, the basis of their original certification, and the absence of a clear change management process.

For example, without accurate fire system information, changes to a building’s automatic sprinkler system, to suit new tenancy modifications, are often installed to the “Light Hazard” classification, as per Australian Standard AS 2118.1-1999 (the edition of the standard currently referenced by the National Construction Code). Yet fire sprinkler systems in older buildings were usually designed and certified to different criteria, including Ordinary Hazard-Group 1 (or in Victoria: Ordinary Hazard – Modified), which typically require a higher minimum water flow. Such a change would result in the original building design criteria not being maintained and the building being, in effect, non-compliant. This can result in costly rectification works or could introduce a significant compliance risk for the building owner.

This is one of many examples where building compliance can be compromised. Also, the increase in alternative performance based solutions can further exacerbate this issue.

A straightforward solution is the compilation of a building fire safety systems manual. In its simplest form, this is a central repository for all available compliance and approval documentation relating to the fire safety systems in the building. In many buildings historical documentation is incomplete; however, even partial information can be useful.

As a minimum, the building fire safety systems manual should contain the following:

  • Building Permits (Development Approvals)
  • Occupancy Permits (Certificates of Classification)
  • Fire engineering reports
  • Fire Brigade / Authority dispensations
  • System certification documentation
  • Maintenance schedules / determinations
  • Other relevant approval documentation.

For larger or more complex buildings, the manual should include a plain English description of the building fire strategy, an interface matrix, and the following details for each fire safety system:

  • System description
  • System design standards / criteria
  • Approved departures from design standards
  • Facility management requirements
  • Maintenance requirements.

Buildings with multiple tenancies should also consider documentation for each level or each tenancy. This is particularly relevant where there are approvals or alternative solutions that relate specifically to the tenancy fitout (e.g. interconnecting stairs).

To remain useful, this central repository should be kept up to date as changes occur in the building. The manual should be made available to designers, installers and building surveyors / certifiers undertaking changes in the building. This can be done by:

  • Nominating it as a reference document in the building tenancy manual.
  • Including reference to it in design briefs.
  • Including an update of the manual as a contractual requirement for anyone overseeing changes in the building.
  • Amending standard contracts for designers to make reference to the requirements of the manual.
  • Undertaking a review of any fitout designs for compliance with the requirements of the manual.
download pdf

For more information

Contact Us

Loading ratings...

Related Articles

February 12, 2020 in Our Experience

Goulburn Valley Health

A state-of-the-art redevelopment of Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton will deliver new and expanded healthcare facilities to meet the growing commu...

August 7, 2018 in News

Walker Fire Protection - On The Block!

Featuring the historic Gatwick Hotel in St Kilda. Walker Fire Protection provided fire protection services for the project to Channel Nine.