AUST – Essential Property Services advises that building approvals to construct or alter buildings issued by building surveyors quite often contain elements defined in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) as ‘lightweight construction’ essential safety measures. Care must be taken, as not all lightweight construction is deemed an essential safety measure.
Building Code of Australia
Lightweight construction can have two meanings under the BCA; the first is to have no fire-resistance level (FRL) and the second is to have an FRL.
The Building Code of Australia Part AI Interpretation, clause A1.1 Definitions defines lightweight construction as:
Lightweight construction means construction which incorporates or comprises—
(a) sheet or board material, plaster, render, sprayed application, or other material similarly susceptible to damage by impact, pressure or abrasion; or
(b) concrete and concrete products containing pumice, perlite, vermiculite, or other soft material similarly susceptible to damage by impact, pressure or abrasion; or
(c) masonry having a thickness less than 70 mm.
If a designer wishes to use lightweight construction in a wall system and utilise a fire resistance level of the nominated lightweight construction then the ‘element’ must comply with Part C1 Fire Resistance and Stability clause 1.8 Lightweight construction and Specification C1.8, an extract follows:
FIRE RESISTANCE AND STABILITY
C1.8 Lightweight construction
(a) Lightweight construction must comply with Specification C1.8 if it is used in a wall system—
STRUCTURAL TESTS FOR LIGHTWEIGHT CONSTRUCTION
This Specification describes tests to be applied to and criteria to be satisfied by a wall system of lightweight construction.
Essential Safety Measures Audit
An essential safety measures auditor must have a very good understanding of the fire separation requirements under the Building Code of Australia. When performing an essential safety measures inspection, the auditor must be able to recognise that a painted plasterboard wall is actually lightweight construction that requires a fire-resistance level and that penetrations in the wall are required to be fire stopped with an approved FRL product (fire stopping).
Without adequate BCA knowledge, an essential safety measures auditor would have no idea when inspecting a wall whether the building surveyor nominated the wall to have a FRL due to its location, type of construction of the building, classification or use to which part of a floor in a storey has been nominated for.