Fire Resisting Structures

Building Surveyors/building certifiers around Australia issue building approvals, construction certificates and building permits based on their states 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 fire resisting structures (fire protective coverings) nominated as an essential safety measure.

For an element in a building to be nominated as an essential safety measure as fire resisting structures, it must be fire rated. 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 fire resisting structures are fire-isolated lift shafts, fire-isolated passageways, fire-isolated ramps and fire-isolated stairs; many other fire rated elements are deemed to be fire resisting structures.

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 fire resisting structures, 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 structures).

Fire-resisting, applied to a building element, 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 photograph depicts an air conditioning systems plant in a plant room of a multi-storey building.

The following is a part extract from clause I1.1 for an Essential Safety Measure (as appeared in BCA 2013) known as Air Conditioning Systems:

Table I1.6 Safety Measures – Air Handling Systems

Safety Measures BCA Provision for Determining Standard of Performance
Smoke hazard management systems – Air-handling systems that do not form part of a smoke hazard management system and which may unduly contribute to the spread of smoke. E2.2

Essential Safety Measures Audit – Air Conditioning Systems

An air conditioning systems maintenance must be sufficient for the air handling equipment to deliver adequate amounts of outdoor air with sufficient circulation and to remove containments. A check by the essential safety measures auditor of the building surveyors/ certifiers essential safety measures determination/ schedule will reveal the air conditioning systems are nominated as an essential safety measure, and will have to be maintained by AS/NZS 3666.2:2002 Air-handling and water systems of buildings – Microbial control – Operation and maintenance.

The essential safety measures auditor must check the mechanical contractor’s air conditioning systems logbook to ascertain whether inspections, testing and maintenance are being carried out as required to ensure fire safety compliance. Any deficiencies in the air conditioning systems should be registered in the building’s essential safety measures logbook to allow signing of the Annual Statement, Annual Certificate of Compliance, Annual Fire Safety Statement, Annual Maintenance Statement and Annual Occupiers Statement.