Changes to fire safety design requirements will help save lives

On: 21 November 2017

Fire safety design requirements will save lives and will better reflect urban landscapes in New Zealand, says Dave Robson, Manager Building Performance and Engineering.

“The New Zealand built landscape is changing and we are seeing more high rise structures and new types of multi-dwelling buildings emerging. The existing way the Verification Method was being applied was not serving the public’s best interest.

“We have recently become aware of buildings being designed where the Verification Method did not provide Building Consent Authorities (BCAs) adequate assurances that public safety was sufficiently protected.

“This change will provide clarity that an alternative solution pathway should be used. It is far better to address this now than require retrospective adjustment or regret it after an event,” says Mr Robson.

MBIE consulted widely with the industry between May and July 2017 regarding these changes (amendment of the Verification Method scope). The existing Verification Method isn’t fit for all types of multi dwelling designs, large hospitals, rest homes and stadiums. The change was signalled to the industry at the Fire New Zealand conference in October by MBIE.

C/VM2, Verification Method: Framework for Fire Safety Design is a way of demonstrating that building design meets the requirements of the Building Code. The scope amendment will take effect on 24 November 2017. A transition period for implementing this amended C/VM2 is not considered necessary as the changes merely clarify its intended and appropriate use.

“The consultation has not delivered consensus within the industry. However given the evolving building landscape, BCAs such as Auckland Council support this Verification Method amendment as it will provide certainty through the design process. Fire and Emergency NZ worked closely with us on the amendment and are of the view it will help to improve the life safety aspects of building design.

“We are aware that while we contacted key stakeholders to communicate the scope amendment, we could have done a better job of informing the wider industry about this change.

“In short, the interests of public safety comes first when it comes to fire safety design,” says Mr Robson.

Further detailed changes to the C/VM2, Verification Method: Framework for Fire Safety Design, that were consulted on in July 2017, are still being considered by MBIE and will involve further consultation on technical changes and communication to wider industry. This scope amendment was considered a priority change within MBIE’s wider fire safety programme.

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