The Building Act 2004 and the Inclusion of the New Zealand Fire Service in the Building Consent Process
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
This report outlines the changes to the Building Act in 2004 and the inclusion of the Fire Service in the building consent process, with the intention of assessing the impact of these changes on performance based design work in New Zealand. To achieve this the following was undertaken: The report sets out the background to the legislative changes to the Building Act in 2004 and how these changes have impacted the New Zealand Fire Service. It then explores the Fire Service’s response to these legislative changes in its legislative role of reviewing specific building consent applications A review was undertaken of the building data held within the Fire Service’s engineering database covering in excess of 2,700 buildings forwarded by the 75 Building Consent Authorities (BCA’s) throughout New Zealand since 2005. This data is then compared to that of non-residential building consent applications received by BCA’s throughout New Zealand, highlighting trends in the building consent process since the inception of the Fire Service’s Design Review Unit. The report investigates the outcomes of the independent audit of the Design Review Unit and the quality of performance-based fire engineering design reports reviewed as part of that audit. In addition, a review of the qualifications and professional memberships of the report authors was also undertaken. A questionnaire was sent to members of the fire industry seeking their feedback on the potential impacts on their work following the changes to the Building Act in 2004. It included specific questions relating to the design work they undertake and the role of the Fire Service in the building consent process. 4 A consistent increase in non-residential building consents received by local Councils is evident since 2005. This has not been mirrored by an increase in the numbers forwarded to the Design Review Unit, with numbers consistently dropping in the main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Results of the independent audit of the Design Review Unit commissioned by the Fire Service Commission highlight several issues with the manner in which performance based fire engineering design is being carried out in New Zealand. Although opportunities for improvement of the Design Review Unit were also suggested, overall the Design Review Unit is carrying out its legislative function in a technically competent manner. A breakdown of the qualifications and professional memberships of the audited report writers show that the majority hold a Masters Degree in fire engineering and also membership to national and international engineering bodies. 12% of report authors had no formal qualification in fire engineering and no professional memberships. 94% of respondents to the questionnaire represented the fire engineering design sector. The majority were not supportive of the changes to the Building Act in 2004 and are of the view that these changes have created more problems during the building consent process. Whilst some respondents were supportive of the Fire Service being involved in the consent process, this was mainly viewed as being only relevant to freighting and evacuation issues. Others were not supportive of the Design Review Unit at all. Respondents indicated that performance based design work now accounts for less of their workload than before the Building Act changes were implemented.