Updated: Nov 13, 2020
One misconception regards who is accountable and responsible for the low level of compliance or lack of passive fire protection. The short answer is everybody, but each party has different levels of responsibilities.
Among other responsibilities, the following responsibilities are defined under the Building Act 2004
A Building Owner is responsible for ensuring that building work carried out by the Owner complies with the building consent or, if there is no building consent, with the building code.
A Designer is responsible for ensuring that the plans and specifications or the advice in question are sufficient to result in the building work complying with the building code if the building work were adequately completed following those plans and specifications or that advice.
A Builder is responsible for ensuring that the building work complies with the building consent and the plans and specifications to which the building consent relates.
A Building Consent Authority is responsible for checking, following the requirements of this Act for each type of building consent, to ensure that an application for a building consent complies with the building code and building work has been carried out following the building consent for that work.
A Product Manufacturer or Supplier is responsible for ensuring that the product will if installed following the technical data, plans, specifications, and advice prescribed by the Manufacturer, comply with the relevant provisions of the building code.
The building act also specifies that this is not a definitive and exhaustive statement of the responsibilities of the parties but are an outline only.
From a practical perspective, we can follow a commonly taken pathway of a project with a focus on passive Fire Protection:
1. The Building Owner usually appoints an agent or Main Contractor to take care of the project.
The Building Owner is ultimately responsible for the project.
Responsibility and liability are also passed on the main contractor under the agreement.
2. The Mains Contractor looks for designers (Architects and Fire Engineers) to design the project and look for the building aspects under the building code
Architects and Engineers are responsible for the design and specification.
3. However, it is common for Architects and Fire Engineers not to be engaged for the specification of Passive Fire Protection systems. Then the Main Contractor requires this specification from the Passive Fire Installer or Passive Fire Consultants. Eventually, any of these parties may also request the Manufacturer to specify the system or to support their specification.
Therefore, the responsibility of the design also passed onto the specifier.
4. During the Installation, the responsibility for the building of Passive Fire Systems is on the Passive Fire Installer. Still, it also falls on the Quality Inspector of the passive fire installation.
The inspection of the passive fire installation is usually carried out by different parties, including the Passive Fire Installer, the Main Contractor, the Building Consent Authority, and the Fire Engineers that will sign off the project (PS4). Some projects also prefer to have a quality approach and engage Passive Fire Protection Consultants as an Independent Third-Party Inspector.
Note: At the time of this publication, there was no legal requirement for a Licensed Building Practitioner to install passive fire protection.
5. Finally, at the completion of a project, the Building Consent Authority will issue a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC) following an application by the Owner or their Agent, if it is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the building work complies with the building consent.
Ultimately, it is the Building Owner’s or their Agent’s responsibility to ensure that the passive fire protection, amongst other matters, complies with the building consent. Given the difficulty of inspecting concealed service penetrations, it is essential that these are installed correctly and checked at the appropriate time and that adequate documentation is recorded.
Building Owners should also ensure that plans identifying the location and fire resistance requirements of fire separations are available to IQPs and others involved in maintenance or inspection during the life of the building.
In summary, the responsibility of Passive Fire Protection is shared among many stakeholders, but ultimately falling on the Building Owner or their Agent. It starts at the design stage, where the correct specifications and identification of passive fire protection are made on the initial plan and followed during the construction stage. The verification of the performance of passive fire protection is an essential part of the final sign-off and required to satisfy the Building Consent Authority that the systems installed to comply with the building code.