Protect Your Property From Fire Damage

fire code in constructing buildings

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The NCC and Australian Standards have strict rules and methods of which must be adhered to when building or renovating a property, whether it be commercial, industrial or residential.  These processes have been put in place to protect human lives and restrict damage to buildings during the event of a fire occurring.

When we look at class 1 through to class 10a buildings we must ensure these buildings are either built at correct distances from one another, separated using the correct fire rating methods, provide adequate access during a fire or a combination of all rules.

fire code in constructing buildingsWhat are some examples of correct building practices to ensure fire safety?

  • 900mm is the distance in which any class 1 building must be built as a minimum from a boundary that it is built on. If, however there is another building on the same allotment the distance is increased to 180mm between the two buildings.
  • Class 1a buildings such as town houses, terrace houses and dwellings attached by a common wall must be have the wall which joins the two properties constructed of a fire rated material. Typical construction methods used to create this barrier are double bricked walls protecting each property from one another during a fire starting.
  • Commercial buildings such as Class 5 and Class 6 may have penetrations going through the floor or dividing tenancy walls for systems such as air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing services. These must be sealed using approved products such as fire collars, fire rated mastic and fire rated pillows.  All of these are designed to stop the spread of fire through the penetration as they close over the opening when in contact with fire.
  • Cladding of structural members to ensure their integrity during a fire. If we look at multi storey construction the steel members which are used to hold up and tie in the building need protection from a fire for a certain period to enable the fire to be bought under control.  In a situation where the steel column or beam may form part of an internal feature it will be cladded in fire rated gyprock so that it can still be painted and or decorated.  If, however the structural member is concealed in a ceiling space or a plant room you might see it encased in vermiculite.

Building in a bush fire zone

Adelaide has many locations where Class 1 to 10a buildings are built and susceptible to bush fires.  Take for example the Adelaide Hills this is classed as a zone that would be more likely to endure the affects of a bush fire as opposed to somewhere such as Unley.  When it comes time to get approval for a building or structure to be built it must be approved against what Bushfire Attack Level it faces (BAL).  There are 6 levels of bushfire protection legislated and these are:

  • BALzone low = General bushfire area
  • BALzone 12.5 = Medium bushfire area
  • BALzone 19 = High bushfire area
  • BALzone 29 = protection level more than high
  • BALzone 40 = protection level more than high
  • BALzone FZ = protection level more than high (most extreme level in the NCC)

Depending on the risk to fire your building is going to be zoned it will depend on what specific requirements the site will need to meet.  Below are some examples of the requirements relating to each zone:

High risk protection planning provisions:

  • Have a dedicated water supply of a minimum amount of 22,000 litres
  • Ensure any gaps between dwelling floor and ground are enclosed to prevent burning debris from entering
  • Be constructed at a minimum of 20 metres from flammable and combustible materials
  • Located and designed to minimise the risk from bush fires
  • Provide adequate access to and from the property for vehicles including fire fighting machinery during the event of a fire

Medium and general risk protection planning provisions:

  • Have a dedicated water supply of a minimum amount of 5,000 litres
  • Ensure any gaps between dwelling floor and ground are enclosed to prevent burning debris from entering
  • Be constructed at a minimum of 20 metres from flammable and combustible materials
  • Located and designed to minimise the risk from bush fires
  • Provide adequate access to and from the property for vehicles including fire fighting machinery during the event of a fire

Protection from fire is one of the most vital components of any building project and adhering to the NCC and Australian Standards is something that cannot be cheated on.  These rules and legislation have been put in place to protect human life and structures.  When considering building in a bush fire zone you should always obtain the services of a qualified builder who can ensure that your project will adhere to the correct fire safety rules, your life might depend upon it one day.

 

 

 

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