AUST – Essential Property Services advises commercial building owners and managers that various state regulations specify differing requirements for mandatory testing, inspection and maintenance of essential safety measures.  The following article is generic information on building fire integrity, which includes fire resisting elements. The objective of Part I of the Building Code of Australia (BCA), not withstanding additional State requirements, is to provide a nationally recognised framework that ensures that people are protected from illness, injury and loss of amenity throughout the life of the building by nominating essential safety measures  in the case of fire.

PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENT

All essential safety measures installed in or intrinsic to a building must be capable of performing to a standard no less than that which they were originally required to achieve.  In each state and territory has various statutory instruments that require different reporting, maintenance regimes and use differing terminology but one requirement is constant and universal:

Using the terminology of the BCA for consistency the following tables are a break down of the fundamental essential safety measures installed in a commercial building i.e. other then a class 1 or 10 (houses or uninhabitable structures) and a brief description of their purpose.
 

Summary of Fire Safety Measures Per BCA

Essential Safety Measures  – Building Fire Integrity

• Building elements required to satisfy fire resistance levels
• Materials and assemblies required to satisfy prescribed fire hazard properties
• Elements required to be non combustible, provide fire protection, compartmentation or separation
• Wall wetting sprinklers (including doors and windows required in conjunction with wall wetting sprinklers)
• Fire doors (including sliding fire doors and their associated warning systems) and associated self closing, automatic closing and latching mechanisms
• Fire windows (including windows that are automatic or permanently fixed in the closed position)
• Fire shutters
• Solid core doors and associated self closing, automatic closing and latching closers, handles and electronic mechanisms strikes
• Fire protection at service penetrations through elements required to be fire resisting with respect to integrity or insulation, or to have a resistance to the incipient spread of fire
• Fire protection associated with construction joints, spaces and the like in and between building elements required to be fire resisting with respect to integrity and insulation
• Smoke doors and associated self closing, automatic closing and latching mechanisms
• Proscenium walls (including fire curtains) 
Passive and active systems within a building that facilitate safe egress by providing smoke, fire containment and viable passage through the building during a fire requiring an evacuation. Passive measures such as fire rated construction and structural fire protection that protects building structural integrity during a fire to facilitate sufficient time for building occupants to evacuate the building.

Issues Affecting – Building Fire Integrity and Essential Safety Measures

PENETRATION OF FIRE RESISTING STRUCTURES Fire resisting structures are required to remain intact to ensure the fire and smoke compartmentation of your buildings is not compromised.
TYPICAL DEFICIENCY: Penetration of fire rated plaster board ceiling is not sealed adequately with approved fire resisting material.
PENETRATION OF FIRE RESISTING STRUCTURES Penetrations of fire resisting structures must be adequately sealed where they are penetrated with approved materials that will maintain the minimum fire resisting level
TYPICAL DEFICIENCY: Penetration of fire rated floor slabs or walls not sealed adequately with approved fire resisting material.
HAZARDOUS STORAGE The storage of LPG cylinders within buildings poses a threat to the safety and health of the occupants and risks serious building damage from explosions or fire. Potential problems can arise, potential explosive atmosphere from escaping gas. LPG is heavier than air and if there is a leak the gas will tend to collect in low points and may remain in an area for some time creating a potential fire or explosive situation. LPG Cylinders should be stored outside in an adequately ventilated area. House the cylinder in a secure location and provide protection against falling, damage and excessive temperature rise.
Provide separate storage for LPG away from any oxidizing gases by at least 3m. Do not store or use petrol, flammable liquids or aerosols near LPG cylinders.
Do not store the cylinder in close proximity to an ignition source, or in locations that could jeopardize escape from the building in the event of fire (under no circumstances in stairwells). Australian Standard AS1596-2008 states that ‘The use and storage of cylinders of LP Gas indoors, whether full or nominally empty, should be avoided wherever practicable’.
TYPICAL DEFICIENCY: Storage of LPG Cylinder inside a building.
STORAGE IN A FIRE ISOLATED STAIRWELL Ensure fire isolated stairwell (which is a nominated essential safety measure) are not used for storage. It is illegal for anything to be stored in a fire isolated stair.
TYPICAL DEFICIENCY: Storage of objects in a fire isolated stairwell is not permitted.