Our recommended approach
We recommend you take the following approach to help establish what information you require with the building consent application:
- consider the key factors
- complete the building score sheet
- check the score against Recommended information requirements – means of escape from fire (Table 1) and decide what information to ask for.
Consider the key factors
We recommend focussing on these key factors:
- likelihood of the existing building complying
- building age
- information held by the BCA or TA
- extent of the proposed building work
- potential consequences of the building not complying
- building importance level
- presence of sleeping facilities.
Likelihood of the existing building complying
We have identified two useful indicators for determining the likelihood of a building complying with current Building Code requirements relating to means of escape from fire. These are both:
- building age
- information held on the building by the BCA and/or TA.
Using the age of a building as a starting point, we have categorised existing buildings into three groups based on when the building work was approved:
- from 1 June 2001 onwards (the date when the current Building Code levels of safety took effect)
- between 1 January 1993 and 31 May 2001, and
- on or before 31 December 1992 (when building and construction was regulated by individual councils).
Note: We have taken 1 June 2001 as the date when the current Building Code levels of safety were first set. That is when a new Acceptable Solution, C/AS1, was adopted following a major revision of the existing approved documents for fire.
That Acceptable Solution effectively set the default level of safety given the non-specific nature of the Building Code clauses in effect at the time (C1 to C4 Fire Safety, which were replaced in April 2012 by the current clauses).
We consider it reasonable to assume that existing buildings approved from 1 June 2001 onwards are Code compliant unless there is information relating to the building showing that this is not the case (e.g. unconsented building work, or where a Code Compliance Certificate has not been issued).
Furthermore, for all buildings approved after 10 April 2013, the current Building Code clauses C1 to C6 Protection from Fire and associated Acceptable Solutions C/AS1 – C/AS7 and Verification Method C/VM2 were in place and were likely to have been used to demonstrate compliance with Building Code requirements for means of escape from fire. Records of this should be on the building file.
- a building permit (up until 31 December 1992)
- a building consent (from 1 January 1993)
- or any other legal mechanism in force at the time of the approval.
Information held on the building by the BCA or TA
Relevant information held on the building file may include:
- the original building consent
- details of any additions or alterations
- Code Compliance Certificates
- details of Compliance Schedules and Building Warrant of Fitness certification
- a full or partial assessment of the building’s means of escape from fire
- any other information relevant to the building’s particular circumstances that should be taken into account.
Building owners may also hold relevant information about an existing building’s compliance. This may be accepted by a BCA and/or TA, placed on the building file, and then taken into account.
Note: We use the term ‘full assessment’ to mean one which includes an audit of all active and passive fire prevention systems and features needed to comply with Building Code requirements related to means of escape from fire, including the information and engineering analysis that demonstrates compliance.
A full assessment must include the whole building rather than being limited to a particular part of the building. A partial assessment is an assessment that does not include the whole building.
The assessment should take into account whether or not work was done to upgrade the building as a result of any previous assessment.
Extent of the proposed building work
Taking the extent of the proposed building work into consideration is about being pragmatic. It is helpful to think of the building work as minor, moderate or significant, in the context of affecting the means of escape from fire.
We consider that it is reasonable for BCAs and TAs to assume that:
- Minor building work typically either:
- affects no more than 20 percent of the footprint of any single building floor where work is occurring on only one floor, or no more than 10 percent of the footprint of a single building floor where work is occurring on multiple floors, or
- involves an extension of no more than 20 percent of the original floor area, and
- includes any repair of an existing building that has been damaged for some reason, and
- includes a structural upgrade (for example, of an earthquake-prone building), and
- does not affect the building’s entry or egress routes or any shared cooking areas.
- Examples of minor building work using this definition could be:
- the refit of all bathrooms or meeting rooms in a multi-storey office; as long as the area being refitted is no more than 10 percent of the footprint of any single floor
- structural repairs to an earthquake damaged building
- a tenancy fit-out in a shopping mall that does not affect the escape routes.
- This definition would not include the refit of kitchens that are shared cooking facilities (as distinct from kitchens in individual apartments).
- Moderate building work:
- is work not covered by the definitions of either minor or significant building work. It may include additions to a building – either additional wings or storeys – as long as this work does not meetany of the criteria for ‘significant building work’.
- Significant building work typically:
- affects a full floor or more of a multiple level buildingand/or affects stairs or vertical escape paths
- may include the amalgamation of two or more buildings
- includes any work resulting from a building subdivision,change of use of a building, or area affected by the building work asdefined by the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, andEarthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005.
Potential consequences of the building not complying
Building Code clause A3 Building Importance Levels divides buildings into five categories that reflect the potential consequences of their non-compliance.
At one end of the scale, importance level 1 buildings are defined as those buildings which pose a low risk if they fail: this includes ancillary buildings and outbuildings not designed for human habitation. At the other end of the scale, importance level 5 buildings are those buildings which pose a catastrophic risk to a large area or to a large number of people if they fail.
We suggest you consider the building’s importance level and, for importance Level 1 to 3 buildings, the presence of any sleeping facilities.
Complete the score sheet
Taking these key factors into consideration, add up what you know about the existing building and proposed building work.
You can use the score sheet in Appendix 1: Building score sheet, which allocates points to key factors. Tally the points to get an overall building score.
Decide what information to ask for
The last step is to decide what information you want the building owner to provide with the building consent application. Check the overall building score against Table 1: Recommended information requirements – means of escape from fire for suggestions. However, note that it is also important to consider the individual circumstances of an existing building. Also, remember that building work approved after 10 April 2013 probably involved the use of Acceptable Solutions C/AS1 – C/AS7 or Verification Method C/VM2 to demonstrate Code compliance. This should be recorded on the building file.
|Table 1: Recommended information requirements – means of escape from fire|
List of fire safety features Statement of changes
This could be a simple list of the building’s existing fire safety features and a statement of what will change as a result of the building work. Additionally, there could be a comparison with the features and systems specified in the latest design documentation.
The building owner should not typically be required to include a gap assessment against any current Acceptable Solutions C/AS1 – C/AS7 or to use the Verification Method C/VM2 to assess his/her building unless this is considered necessary given the individual circumstances of the building.
Gap assessment using the appropriate Acceptable Solution from C/AS1 – C/AS7
It is reasonable to request a gap assessment of the existing building’s means of escape from fire unless the individual circumstances of the building suggest otherwise.
The gap assessment should:
A gap assessment using an Acceptable Solution can be undertaken for complex, existing buildings even if they have features that do not comply with the Acceptable Solution. For example, a building may have more than one intermediate floor or one floor that is larger than permitted in the Acceptable Solution. In this case, the gap assessment should highlight where the existing building complies with the appropriate Acceptable Solution and where there is any gap.
Full assessment using:
It may be appropriate to request a full assessment of the existing building’s mean of escape from fire unless the individual circumstances of the building suggest otherwise. If the building design, system and features fall entirely within the scope of one of the Acceptable Solutions C/AS1 – C/AS7, this can be used to identify and quantify any gaps between the features and systems required to comply with Building Code requirements for means of escape from fire and those existing in the building.
If the building falls outside the scope of these Acceptable Solutions for means of escape from fire, regardless of the extent of the non-compliance, the assessment should be made against the Building Code clauses C3.4 and C4 using the process described in the Verification Method C/VM2. The Acceptable Solutions D1/AS1, F6/AS1, F7/AS1 and F8/AS1 should be used to develop the analysis for D1, F6, F7 and F8 components of means of escape.
*Total score for the existing building from Appendix 1: Building score sheet