Legislation changes for NSW raise the bar for fire safety

From October 1st 2017, new fire safety and building certification amendments to the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000 will come into effect. These reforms aim at improving fire safety within new and existing buildings by requiring fire safety practitioners involved in a given project to be ‘competent’, which was previously not the case. There was previously no minimum qualification or experience that a practitioner needed to have in order to design, install, commission or maintain fire safety systems such a smoke detection systems, sprinkler systems, hydrants and hose reels, and even smoke exhaust and stair pressurisation systems.

For over 10 years now, the EP&A Regulation has required that for large projects, the nominated Fire Safety Engineer be suitably qualified and accredited as a C10 Fire Safety Engineer, which is essentially a formal recognition that a fire engineer is ‘competent’. Holmes Fire has five C10 Accredited Fire Safety engineers (Sydney based), all with a Masters degree or higher. Additionally, all Holmes Fire engineers have, or are undertaking, a specialist tertiary qualification in fire safety. This enables our team to provide sound fire safety advice and Performance Solutions that harmonise client and architectural objectives, whilst still maintaining acceptable levels of life and fire safety.

The amended EP&A Regulation also includes a number of additional checks and balances for fire systems designers and Certifiers to action, and Holmes Fire can assist the project team in achieving these to facilitate a smooth development approval process:

  • Plans must show, and Specifications must describe, the physical aspects of any Performance Solution (Clause 130 and Clause 144A). Holmes Fire can provide documentation review services to verify that the requirements of a Holmes Fire Performance Solution have been incorporated into building plans and specifications. This also serves as a secondary review to identify any BCA anomalies that may be overlooked by the Certifier.
  • Fire & Rescue NSW must be given the opportunity to inspect the fire safety systems that are installed, extended or modified within a Class 2 or 3 residential building before an Occupation Certificate is issued (Clause 136AA), regardless of whether a fire engineered solution has been applied. Where fire safety concerns of non-compliances are raised by these Fire & Rescue NSW inspections, Holmes Fire may be able to provide fire engineering advice or a Performance Solution to assist in resolving the issue.
  • The format of annual fire safety statements is to be improved and made consistent (Clause 181). These statements will also now be required to list all Fire Engineering Reports and Performance Solutions that apply to the building. This represents an excellent opportunity to verify the fire safety schedule for existing buildings to ensure that the schedule correctly lists the installed systems and their standard of performance. Holmes Fire can assist with this process and since we are an independent firm that do not install or maintain fire services, our review will never be accompanied by a quote for rectification works.

The new Regulations introduce a new compliance method for fire safety system designs to incorporate minor deviations from the requirements of Australian Standards and BCA Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions (Clause 164B). Where such exemptions are sought, Holmes Fire can assist in determining whether the operational performance of other fire safety systems may be impacted by the proposed exemption. Holmes Fire can also assist in determining if the proposed exemption may have an impact on any existing or proposed Performance Solution for the building.

Overall these changes will greatly increase the level of robustness within the fire safety and construction industries and Holmes Fire are excited to work alongside Certifiers, builders, fire services engineers and our clients to continue to deliver a high standard of fire safety solutions.