The traditional approach for facility managers is to do whatever it takes to make the passive fire issue disappear. This is not always the most cost-effective approach.
In recent times, I have been approached by fellow members of the Facility Management Association of NZ (FMANZ) to do a walkabout at buildings under their control, with a view to sharing insights into passive fire and fire stopping installations.
When many of these buildings were designed and built, fire engineering and specifically the incorporation of passive fire protection did not enjoy the focus it has today. In these buildings I have seen a number of passive fire issues:
- Numerous ‘foam’ type seals around all manner of service penetrations
- Floors that have not been sealed in service risers, creating a ‘chimney’ for smoke to travel throughout the structure
- Fire and smoke doors that no longer have adequate rubber seals around the frame, creating a risk of smoke leakage along the egress route
In one instance, we stepped onto a ladder and lifted the ceiling tile to see what was above the fire door. To our dismay the firewall stopped around 200mm above the false ceiling. There was a clear space between the top of the wall and the underside of the floor slab above.
The Association of Building Compliance, Fire Protection Association of NZ and the Facilities Management Association of New Zealand (FMANZ) all aim to shine a light on passive fire responsibilities in NZ.
The association of Building Compliance (ABC-IQP) and its members attempt to draw the attention of the facility managers to the shortcomings of the passive fire requirements in the built environment. I attended a meeting of the association recently where an Auckland Council representative told the audience that the council relies on the B-WoF – IQP to be their eyes and ears.
The question is: if we witness a non-compliance and we do nothing about alerting others (in a position to take action on the issue), are we complicit in this non-compliance? And consequently, can we be seen to be condoning this non-compliance? Do we have a ‘duty of care’ responsibility? And if we ignore this duty, can we be held liable?
Fire Protection Association of NZ (FPANZ)
At a special interest group on passive fire meeting recently, those present were reminded of our ‘duty of care responsibilities’ in terms of the FPANZ’s code of ethics and conduct. It was interesting to revisit these codes in light of the discussions about the behaviour of fellow members and other participants in the passive fire arena.
The FMANZ and the ABC-IQP have similar codes of ethics etc for members to adhere to.
- All fire stops shall be tested. (C5.1.2)
- Fire stops and methods of installation shall be identical to those of the prototype used in tests to establish the FRR (Acceptable Solution C/AS4 section 4.4.3)
When assessing older sites with serious passive fire risks, the discussion is drawn to the aspect of compliance and the process to get many of these ‘as built’ penetrations up to code. The general consensus in these instances is that consultation is required from the council inspectors, the fire engineers, the designers/installers and the product manufacturers and distributors.
We all have a common goal: to have the installation signed off as being compliant.
The choice of a competent installer/designer of retro-fit passive fire should include reference checks from manufacturers and council. Membership bodies representative of the industry should also be taken into consideration.
The installer will default to the most labour-intensive solution. The traditional approach for facility managers is to do whatever it takes to make the issue disappear. This is not always the most cost-effective approach.
Knowledge is king! It may take a little time to verify or consult on a proposed solution and if we are to take our ‘duty of care’ responsibilities seriously, we owe it to ourselves to perform at least a basic due diligence.
We invite fellow members of the FMANZ to contact us to explore how to efficiently put a verification procedure in place to ensure we get the best value for money by getting compliance right the first time.
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Discuss all the passive fire protection options with us at Potters passive fire. Email email@example.com or call 027 255 4186