Page 3989 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 20 September 2017

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All applications for new buildings, or a new part of buildings over 500 square metres in floor area, excluding houses, townhouses and some outbuildings, must be referred to ACT Fire & Rescue. Any proposed alternative solution relating to fire protection must also be referred. An alternative solution is one that is outlined in the building standards, but can still meet the overall level of safety required, such as minimising the risk of spreading fire to a neighbouring building.

Replacement of external materials requires a building approval, but does not necessarily require a referral to ACT Fire & Rescue. While ACT Fire & Rescue do not approve buildings, they do provide advice to certifiers and applicants on any fire safety aspect of the building that may prevent emergency services personnel carrying out their own duties and services.

Since 2009, ACT Fire & Rescue has ensured that any proposals to use panels that do not meet the testing standards in a higher risk building are subject to an alternative solution. Alternative solutions are developed for specific buildings and must be accompanied by information that demonstrates the required level of safety. Alternative solutions are assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the design, purpose and intended use of the panels, as well as the building and the risks to occupants. The fire safety system for the building as a whole is also considered, including whether there are relevant protections like fire isolated stairs; isolating different parts of the building to prevent the spread of fire; fire suppression and sprinkler systems; and air handling and zone pressurisation systems. The certifier must be satisfied that the alternative solution will be compliant.

Building certifiers and fire engineers operating in the ACT have been made aware of when ACPs can be used and when they cannot. On completion of the project, the building certifier must also provide the supporting documentation received from the builder and others during construction. This may include installation certificates outlining the products installed in the building. The licensed builder is responsible for ensuring that materials and building work comply with the building approval.

Government buildings are not exempt from the Building Act. They are also subject to these approval and certification processes.

I am happy to provide more detail on fire safety standards and mitigating fire safety risks to the Assembly, as outlined in my amendments.

Mr Assistant Speaker, the building approval process exists to identify incorrectly specified or potentially non-compliant use of panels before the building is built. However, it cannot guarantee that the building was built in accordance with the building standards. In instances where an owner, tenant or government becomes aware that a building is not built in accordance with the building standards, the government can take action.

This is why we have formed the working group to review the potentially non-compliant use of cladding in ACT buildings. ACT government directorates are also reviewing and auditing the buildings we own and/or occupy. Directorates are expediting the work, but it is important that this is done right and that any potential compliance issues are verified and supported by expert advice.

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