AUST Hendry building surveying consultants advise that contained in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) in Section E is Table E1.5 which has requirements for sprinkler system installation in buildings. Normally this table is used by engineers and architects when designing a factory or warehouse. Sometimes to save on capital cost a developer instructs the architect that the building will be occupied by a ‘low hazard occupancy’. Therefore the building is designed and constructed with reduced active fire services as allowed for by its intended use under the BCA. Subsequently when the building is occupied an owner can be left open to question as to whether the building complies with the regulations for the current use or occupation if that use comes under the occupancy of excessive hazard.
Questions on the validity of occupation occupancy of excessive hazard arise due to:
- A tenant being advised that the building can be used as a certain type of factory or warehouse and subsequently finds out it cannot
- A new or existing tenant questioning the validity of the standard of the sprinkler system installed given the use of the building
- Proposed alterations to the building
- A visit by the Council/ Municipal building surveyor
- An occurrence of fire in the building
- A WorkCover claim exposing inadequacies
- A risk management consultant visiting the building (representing the owner, tenant or insurance company)
- A tenant increasing the risk due to processes or chemical storage
/ SPRINKLER SYSTEMS
In considering whether the BCA requires a sprinkler system (and to what standard) to be installed in a building, a determination under Table E1.5 ‘occupancy of excessive hazard’ must be made by the building surveyor, and the following is taken into account:
- Is the building oversized?
- Is the building of excessive hazard by virtue of its size (volume/ area), its use and contents.
The volume, area, use and contents of a building are all assessed via tables contained in the BCA which result in limitations for occupation. To exceed these limits will require a sprinkler system to be installed. Table E1.5 of the BCA advises that an “Occupancy of Excessive Hazard” comprise buildings which contain: Hazardous processes or storage including the following (varies for Victoria):
- Aircraft hangars
- Cane furnishing manufacture, processing and storage
- Fire-lighter and fireworks manufacture and warehousing
- Foam plastic and foam plastic goods manufacture, processing and warehousing, e.g. furniture factory
- Hydrocarbon based sheet product, manufacture, processing and warehousing, e.g. vinyl floor coverings
- Woodwool and other flammable loose fibrous material manufacture.