Proposed fire safety changes to EP&A regulation
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In September 2016, the NSW Government announced its response to the statutory review of the Building Professionals Act 2005. It addressed the report’s 150 recommendations and outlined proposed changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Regulation 2000. These changes are considered an important step in strengthening the NSW building regulation and certification system.
The proposed changes aim to improve fire safety in the design, construction and approval of new buildings and building work. They comprise the following seven areas.
1. Competent Fire Safety Practitioners
The changes propose to introduce the role of ‘competent fire safety practitioners’ who will be required to perform certain specialist fire safety functions. This independent role will need to be sourced by the client, however MBC will be responsible for ensuring the person chosen is competent and delivers the required fire safety reports. The proposed changes also include an accreditation framework that will provide clear guidance on what it means to be a competent fire safety practitioner.
2. Submission of Plans and Specifications
Before installing, extending or modifying relevant fire safety plans and specifications for fire safety system work, they must be endorsed by the competent fire safety practitioner before they’re submitted to MBC. The specifications must, among other things, describe any Alternative Solutions that apply to the design.
3. Compliance Exemptions
The proposed changes offer some flexibility for certain minor relevant fire safety system work associated with alterations and additions to existing buildings, where strict compliance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) is deemed unreasonable and unnecessary, or impose unreasonable costs.
4. Critical Stage Inspections
Two new critical stage inspections will be added to the list of inspections under clause 162A of the EP&A Regulation for Class 2-9 buildings. The first new inspection applies to new buildings generally, while the second applies only to Class 2 and 3 buildings (multi-unit residential buildings) and parts of Class 4 buildings. The focus of the new inspections is fire compartmentation, to help prevent the spread of fire through a building.
5. Additional Checks by Fire and Rescue NSW
Under the proposed changes, there will be new inspections of fire safety system work relating to Class 2 and 3 buildings by Fire and Rescue NSW, before Occupation Certificates are issued. This will provide an independent check of certain buildings containing certain fire systems.
6. Alternative Solution Reports
A report will be required for all fire safety Alternative Solutions in Class 1b – 9 buildings, if the proposed changes are implemented. This will ensure there is a record of all accepted fire safety Alternative Solutions, clarify MBC’s role in reviewing these solutions and improve construction compliance. Without the report and MBC’s endorsement, a Complying Development Certificate and Construction Certificate cannot be issued.
7. Fire Safety Certificates
The aim of this reform is to improve the quality and consistency of fire safety certificates. Fire safety certificates and statements will need to be conducted and issued by a competent fire safety practitioner and submitted to MBC using the approved form.
The proposed changes place a greater focus on documenting fire safety plans and bridging the gap between these plans and the resulting construction works, ensuring compliance is maintained at every stage of the project. Our Building Certifiers will be paying close attention to the progress of these reforms and, if implemented, will be incorporating these requirements into our streamlined methodology.
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