The New Zealand Building Act 2004 and the involvement of the New Zealand Fire Service
Prior to 1992, fire safety regulations in New Zealand operated under a prescriptive regime. Such prescriptive requirements provided direct guidance in specific terms for those designing buildings and in effect dictated design criteria. In December 1991 a new Building Act was passed in law, replacing the existing prescriptive fire safety code, NZ Standard 1900, Chapter 51. In doing so, it allowed for performance-based design to be carried out for the first time in New Zealand’s history and offered designers a less restrictive design environment. The changes implemented in 1991 also set out mandatory performance requirements in the Building Code2 that must be complied with by the designer. Those relating to fire safety are outlined in the C clauses and contain four categories: C1 Outbreak of fire, C2 Means of escape, C3 Spread of fire and C4 Structural stability during fire. Assessing compliance with these performance requirements and their enforcement lies with the Building Consent Authorities (BCA’s), formerly known as Territorial Authorities (TA’s). They must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the provisions of the Building Code would be met if the building work was completed in accordance with the plans and specifications submitted with the building consent application. At the discretion of the BCA, a performance-based design can be passed to an independent fire engineer for peer review, prior to the BCA issuing consent.