AUST – HENDRY building surveyors often have to clients how the Building Code of Australia determines fire safety provisions relative to their building. This article provides a broad overview which will help you in your understanding of the Building Code of Australia.

1. Use of building under the Building Code of Australia

Buildings are designed to be used for different purposes. For example, some buildings are designed to be used for residential purposes i.e. buildings where people sleep, and other buildings are designed to be used for commercial or industrial purposes i.e. buildings where people work. The fire safety requirements in the Building Code of Australia clearly reflect the fact that people need more protection from fire in buildings where they may be asleep when a fire starts. An example of this is the egress requirements for Class 2 and 3 buildings as distinct from the requirements for Class 5 to 9 buildings.

2. Occupants

Fire safety requirements in the Building Code of Australia also take into consideration the nature of the occupants likely to be using the building. For example provisions would be affected by such considerations as whether the building occupants are likely to be sick or disabled or unfamiliar with the building.

3. Fire load of building

The nature of the process or task being performed in the building can affect fire safety requirements nominated under the Building Code of Australia. For instance, the fire load of a building used as an office where “paperwork” is the principal task would be much less than a factory where a high hazard process such as the manufacture of paint is being undertaken.

4. Height of building

The taller the building the greater are the likely problems relating to:

  • Egress from the building; and
  • Exposure hazard

The effective height of a building in these instances is therefore only related to finished ground level under the Building Code of Australia. The taller the building the greater the vertical distance of egress travel to the safety of finished ground level outside the building (which must of course be directly connected to a street).

The following illustration from BCA Illustrated depicts the requirements for the establishment of the effective height for a building. (Please note the ‘Issue’ and ‘Explanation’ not included).

Also the taller the building above finished ground level, the greater is its exposure hazard to and from neighbouring buildings.

The concept of “rise in storeys” in the Building Code of Australia is derived from these considerations and is therefore related to height of building above finished ground level. It is therefore a term generally applied to fire safety considerations.

The concept of “number of storeys contained” under the Building Code of Australia in a building must not be confused with “rise in storeys’ as it is usually based on the total number of storeys in the building – including those below ground level, and is generally applied to structural considerations.

Building Legislation Table

Refer to our Building Legislation table for further information on the building permit process including alternative solutions.

Fire Safety Compliance: Essential Safety Measures

Refer to our Essential Safety Measures Identification table for further information on individual Essential Safety Measures including the Annual Statement.

Further Advice

For building surveying consultancy advice, please contact your closest HENDRY office by clicking here.