A new industry guide from New Zealand’s Society of Fire Protection Engineers covers fire engineering construction monitoring.
THE NEW ZEALAND Building Act expects that people can use buildings safely. Accordingly, buildings must be designed, constructed and maintained throughout their life in a suitable way.
Before a building can become operational and a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC) granted, the building consent authority (BCA) must be satisfied the building work has been completed in accordance with the building consent. A CCC assures the building owner and the users of the building the construction work meets the New Zealand Building Code.
But is building construction work being carried out to an acceptable quality level in New Zealand? A quick web search shows questions are being raised. Media statements regularly emphasise expected or observed faults in the construction of buildings, including safety-critical building components and systems.
Clearly, we need positive changes to better meet safety expectations. However, these will be ineffective if they are only focused on one trade or aspect of the supply chain. Building owners, designers, builders and the BCA all play a part in meeting the Building Act and achieving quality outcomes.
Building designers (such as architects, engineers, design+build contractors) must detail building work to comply with the Building Code. The building owner and builder must ensure that the building work is carried out in accordance with the building consent or, where work is exempt, the design details meet the Building Code. Finally, the BCA must check work complies with the building consent.
Construction monitoring helps reduce risk
Construction monitoring services reduce the risk that the materials or components do not meet specified requirements, the design has been incorrectly interpreted or poor work has been incorporated into the project.
Construction monitoring aims to confirm that building work has been completed according to the consent documentation. This provides independent verification that the work by contractors has been completed on reasonable grounds in accordance with specified requirements.
Construction monitoring guidance from the New Zealand Construction Industry Council covers all types of engineering services and is a way to define the appropriate level of construction monitoring. This is influenced by the size, importance and complexity of the construction works and the experience and quality management skill of the constructor.
While the existing guidelines are useful, there is a lack of guidance supporting the undertaking of specific disciplines, such as fire engineering construction monitoring.
New guide to clarify expectations
The New Zealand Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers is addressing this by writing a building industry guide. It will cover what to expect when a competent fire engineer undertakes fire engineering construction monitoring, and the role other members of the design and construction team play.
Typically, a fire engineer prepares a performance-based fire engineering design. Designers translate this into plans and specifications the building is consented and built to. These designers monitor their designs so that they comply with the building consent documents. The builder and subcontractors work so that their construction complies with consent documents.
The guide also recognises construction monitoring by the fire engineer may be unnecessary on buildings where the risk of non-compliance is low.
Benefits of involving the fire engineer can include:
- meeting expectations of client and the BCA
- monitoring and facilitating design and build elements
- avoiding poor coordination or understanding
- avoiding contractor rework
- providing assistance with certificates for public use.
The guide will highlight the difficulties in determining the need for and possible scope of fire engineering construction monitoring engagement at the beginning of a project.
It will recommend that, once the design features are understood and the construction phase details are decided, there can be discussions with the client and BCA agreeing on the construction monitoring expectations.
Two key parts to the guide
Two key parts of the document are defining the level of service and scope of works for fire engineering construction monitoring.
The level of service information refines construction monitoring levels 1 to 5 (CM1–CM5) to be more applicable to the fire engineering discipline.
The scope of works information highlights the suggested role of the fire engineer and others on the project with respect to fire engineering construction monitoring. It also sets expectations for completion information from the contractor and other designers.
The completion information describes the elements of construction to be observed or performed and are to be accompanied by records to support the opinion of compliance.
Recommended for all building projects
The new guide covering fire engineering construction monitoring is recommended for use in all building projects and is intended to represent current good practice.
Once released, it will give clarity for all involved in the design and construction of life safety and property protection systems and ultimately improve the quality of buildings.