The NSW Government has recently published the Environmental Planning Assessment Amendment (Fire Safety and Building Certification) Regulation 2017, which will come into effect on 1 October 2017. The new reforms aim to improve fire safety in new and existing buildings, following the recommendations outlined in the statutory review of the Building Professionals Act 2005, released in September 2016.
The changes are relevant to class 1b-9 buildings at various stages of development and place a particular focus on the involvement of ‘competent fire safety practitioners’ who will perform functions such as carrying out annual fire safety checks. The Department of Finance, Services and Innovation will be developing a new accreditation framework for the fire safety practitioner role later in the year.
Below are the key areas of the new regulation that are relevant to MBC clients.
Design and Approval
The regulation requires plans and specifications to be submitted before installing, modifying or extending certain fire safety systems in class 2-9 buildings. These include:
- mandatory submission of endorsed plans and specifications for certain fire safety systems to MBC, before systems can be installed
- new requirements for documenting, endorsing and checking non-standard fire safety designs (known as performance solutions or alternative solutions in the Building Code of Australia)
- limited exceptions from compliance with technical standards, for minor safety system work
- mandatory involvement of competent fire safety practitioners in certain situations.
There will be new critical stage inspections for apartments and other multi-dwelling residential buildings. At a minimum, these required inspections will cover penetration protection of each type of service (hydraulic, mechanical, electronic etc) and fire compartmentation on each storey of the building to varying degrees. Like all critical stage inspections, these must take place to ensure occupation certificates for multi-dwelling residential buildings can be issued.
Fire and Rescue NSW will be given the opportunity to inspect any class 2 or 3 building that has undergone building work involving the installation, extension or modification of relevant fire safety systems. This is regardless of whether the building or work is subject to an alternative solution or performance-based solution.
A new, more detailed format of reports for alternative solutions used in class 1b-9 buildings will be required, with fire safety statements and certificates provided in the form that has been approved by the Department of Planning and Environment. This aims to improve the quality and consistency of these statements and certificates.
Assessment of the ongoing performance of essential fire safety measures must now be undertaken by competent fire safety practitioners. Once the accreditation framework is in place, these practitioners will be expected to be accredited to perform this role.
These changes are likely to affect most development work on new and existing buildings taking place after October 2017. MBC will be providing detailed advice in relation to these issues as they come to hand. If you would like clarification on any aspect or want to learn more about the reforms, read the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Fire Safety and Building Certification) Regulation 2017, or get in touch with our team to discuss.