Building Elements Fire Resistance

Building surveyors and building certifiers around Australia issue building approvals, construction certificates and building permits based on their State’s building regulations and the Building Code of Australia (BCA) on a daily basis. Except for houses and outbuildings, all of these approval documents will contain essential safety measures and the majority of buildings will also have building elements fire resistance (fire protective coverings) nominated as an essential safety measure.

For building elements in a building to be nominated as essential safety measures such as building elements fire resistance, it must be fire rated under a building permit. The BCA does not use the term fire rated but uses ‘fire-resisting’. The term fire resisting is a defined term in the BCA and is a Referenced Standard used to ensure the building is adequately fire protected. Some examples of building elements fire resistance are fire-isolated lift shafts, fire-isolated passageways, fire-isolated ramps and fire-isolated stairs; many other fire rated elements are deemed to be building elements fire resistance.

Building Code of Australia

The Building Code of Australia Part A1 Interpretation, Clause A1.1 Definitions, defines ‘fire-resistance level’ and ‘fire-resisting’. Together they allow a building surveyor and the BCA to use the term building elements fire resistance, part extract follows:

PART A1
INTERPRETATION

A1.1 Definitions

Fire-resistance level (FRL) means the grading periods in minutes determined in accordance with Specification A2.3, for the following criteria- and expressed in that order.

(a) structural adequacy; and
(b) integrity; and
(c) insulation,

Note:
A dash means that there is no requirement for that criterion. For example, 90/-/- means there is no requirement for an FRL for integrity and insulation, and -/-/- means there is no requirement for an FRL.

Fire-resisting, applied to building elements, means having an FRL appropriate for that element.
Fire-resisting construction means one of the Types of construction referred to in Part C1.

The following illustration from BCA Illustrated depicts an operational flow chart for building elements fire resistance of Part C1. (Please note ‘Issues and Explanation’ of building elements fire resistance not included).

The following is a part extract from clause I1.1 for an essential safety measure known as building elements fire resistance:

Table I1.1 Safety Measures – Building Fire Integrity

Safety Measures BCA Provision for Determining Standard of Performance
Building elements required to satisfy prescribed fire-resistance levels
(fire resisting structures)
D1.12

Building surveyors issue essential safety measure schedules based on their own state building legislation. Table I1.1 Safety measures contains a comprehensive list of essential safety measures which includes building elements fire resistance. The building surveyor uses this Table as well as local considerations under their own legislation when including building elements fire resistance.

Essential Safety Measures Audit – Building Elements Fire Resistance

Building surveyors/ certifiers who issue the building approval documentation must also issue the necessary essential safety measures schedules, lists, determinations or certificates of classification. These documents will nominate when necessary ‘building elements fire resistance’ as an essential safety measure, that is any building element requiring a fire-resistance level (FRL) e.g. floors, walls, columns, beams, bracings, ceilings, roofs, shafts, tunnels etc. will all be building elements fire resistance.

An essential safety measures auditor must understand and be aware of the implications of all building elements in a building that require a FRL, which are nominated as building elements fire resistance to ensure fire safety compliance. Not all are obvious, and not all are specifically nominated in the essential safety measures schedule. All non-compliant building elements fire resistance should be nominated in the essential safety measures logbook to allow for signing the Annual Statement, Annual Certificate of Compliance, Annual Fire Safety Statement, Annual Maintenance Statement and Annual Occupiers Statement.