Melbourne Earthquake uncovers building safety flaws and construction defects
Author: Kieran Balmaceda | Technical Advisory: Chris Scully
In the wake of the magnitude six earthquake which affected a large area of Victoria on September 22nd, numerous buildings throughout the state were inspected due to concerns surrounding structural integrity, damage assessment and overall safety.
In the aftermath, our experts have been receiving reports from across the industry highlighting several severe building compliance issues, which naturally can be exacerbated by natural events like earthquakes. The most significant issues uncovered or caused by the earthquake are:
Cracking in fire rated wall systems.
Compromised integrity of a structure like a fire wall can constitute non-compliance, which presents two distinct and potential consequences; first is the potential failure of the structure to contain the spread of smoke or fire, which would in turn endanger occupants in the event of a fire. Secondly, any issues of non-compliance can result in significant penalties or fines.
Issues with fire and smoke doors system operations due to frame distortion and movement in associated walls.
Much like the previous point, potential occupant exposure to fire and smoke is an issue that cannot be left unresolved for any period of time. The cost of non-compliance here could mean injury or death.
Potential issues with equipment associated with active fire protection systems.
Environmental factors can compromise the condition or function of active fire protection systems like smoke detectors and fire alarms, sprinkler systems, thermal detectors and automated fire doors. As a result, these active fire protection systems may not function correctly in the event of a fire or other emergency.
Issues with mechanical system functions in fire mode.
The consequences of the previous issue can produce a flow on effect, impacting mechanical building systems such as HVAC controls and affecting their ability to manage airflow or restrict the spread of smoke and airborne contaminants during a fire or other emergency.
It is fair to say that each of these risks need to be addressed as rapidly as possible. I order to do this; we recommend that clients take the following three steps:
1: Bring forward annual System Interface Testing to identify issues with fire and mechanical services.
2: Conduct a full audit of all fire and smoke door systems
These two steps will minimise the time that a particular component of the building structure or safety measure is compromised and consequently poses a risk to occupant safety.
3: Conduct additional annual passive fire rating systems inspection to identify defects in fire and smoke walls
Adding this measure on top helps to ensure that these components are certified compliant or returned to compliant condition as quickly as possible, ensuring they will work effectively in conjunction with active and passive safety measures installed in the building.
By moving each of your auditing and testing inspections forward, we can uncover defects and deterioration caused by the earthquake or similar environmental factors, avoiding exposure to non-compliant safety measures.
We encourage all building owners and managers to act quickly to ensure that any non-compliance issues are detected and rectified as soon as possible. The quickest way to do that is to get in touch with our Safety Measures team to walk through your requirements and arrange inspection and certification as soon as possible.
Contact Safety.Measures@hendry.com.au to get started.