In Victoria, Regulation 129 of the Building Regulations 2018 stipulates the requirements for the report and consent of the Fire Rescue Commissioner of Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV). The report and consent shall be obtained to an application for a building permit involving departures in prescribed fire safety matters (e.g., fire hydrants and fire indicator panels) from the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions of the Building Code of Australia (BCA DtS Provisions).
As part of Reg 129 application to FRV, the final Fire Engineering Report (FER) shall be submitted to review the building’s Performance Solutions. Although this revision of the FER forms part of the approved documentation for building permit and construction, further departures to the building design and subsequent amendments to the FER are inevitable.
These variations to fire engineering design may be triggered by a shift in the design intent, the need to adopt an alternative design strategy, practical implementation issues, site constraints, or design errors identified during construction.
Last year (2021), FRV issued a letter to industry stakeholders on their processes and policies regarding the FER amendments that occur after obtaining the Reg 129 and consent. These include the following scenarios:
- Amended FERs pertaining to Reg 129 report and consent issued prior to July 2021. An application for an amended report and consent pursuant to Reg 129 shall be submitted to FRV, and they will review the amended FER and confirm if further action is required. Note that FRV is not currently prioritising the reviews of these FERs. Hence extensive delays are expected in receiving a response from FRV.
- Amended FERs pertaining to Reg 129 report and consent issued after June 2021. In general, a new Reg 129 application incorporating the amended FER shall be submitted to FRV. However, if a building permit has been issued for the building work that includes the prescribed fire safety matters, an application to seek a modification from the Building Appeals Board (BAB) shall be required under Section 160 of the Victorian Building Act 1993.
- Amended FERs pertaining to the correction or justification of non-compliant building work that can be rectified. These amendments to the FERs will not be accepted by FRV as they may bring disrepute to the construction industry.
In summary, the fire engineering process has undergone drastic changes in recent times. Therefore, it is vital for the project stakeholders to agree on the building’s fire engineering design measures at the design development stage to overcome these complex approval processes and to avoid project delays.
These policies adopted by FRV also reflect the latest changes to the BCA 2019 Amendment One that took effect from 1 July 2021 under BCA DtS Provisions A2.2(4), which require mandatory consultation with stakeholders and agreement to the fire engineering design measures at the Fire Engineering Brief stage (FEB). Should a design change occur during the construction phase after the completion of the FER, BCA DtS Provisions A2.2(4) stipulates the need for an amended FEB and stakeholder consultation and agreement process.
Overall, these improvements to the current industry practices will increase the quality of fire engineering design and most importantly the safety of the buildings and occupants.
If your building project involves Reg 129 fire safety matters and fire engineering Performance Solutions, please talk about the above procedural changes with the project fire safety engineer for advice. Should you need further information, please get in touch with me via Rusthi@PassionateFE.com.
Reference: Planned changes to Fire Rescue Victoria processes and policies relating to Building Regulation matter, issued on 19 July 2021 (refer to attached PDF document).