Don’t panic

Don’t panic

Don’t panic – matters seem to be cooling off, and co-operation abounds. ūüôā

We’ve been getting worried abut pending litigation at one site where we see baseline problems with Essential Safety Measures, in a new built block of multilevel apartments, in particular Fire Doors and incomplete documentation. After a¬† little more time – some cooling of the heads – remediation is underway & documentation is catching up. We have included guidance from the fire door manufacturer and we’re comfortable things are going to work out alright for the safety of the occupants. In the end the Owner’s Corporation is footing the bill, but it’s not horrendous.

The Owners understand their safety is our concern, and the remediation has proceeded fairly quickly once the way forward was agreed.

Can we help you?

Give us a call

1300 134 971

Building occupancy permits

Building occupancy permits

We are seeing some problems with construction completion and Building occupancy permits (OP). How is this even a getting as far as us?

Proper chain of events

Here is what should happen.

  1. Building design is completed, checked and approved. (properly engineered and code compliant)
  2. Selected builder drafts building permit application. Approval is sought from local government (Council)
  3. Once building permit is approved the builder gets cracking. Free-issue materials (generally specially designed items) are accepted from the owner, other materials are procured as required and construction proceeds in accordance with the drawings.
  4. A registered builder surveyor (RBS) makes inspection as necessary, engaging specialist inspectors as required.
  5. Once compliant completion is confirmed the RBS signs the Occupancy Permit (OP) which includes the ongoing maintenance obligations (MD) to keep the Essential Safety Measures (ESM) in operable condition.
  6. Handover to owner is completed. This should included baseline documentation on the Essential Safety Measures equipment.
  7. The Owner, or Owners’ Coporation, engages a contractor such as us, often involving a Facilities manager, to perform some or all of the ESM inspection and maintenance obligations, on an ongoing basis.

Everything hinges on the OP. It is a key document. It is evidence of building completion and proper compliance; compliance with building regulations and codes as well as the owner’s approved drawings.

Now, consider the case where the RBS has conducted inadequate inspection and verification prior to signing the OP. In recent cases publicised in the media, a number of Victorian building surveyors have been de-registered for failing to discharge this responsibility properly. One arm of local government affected by this is the planning department of various local councils. We have recently come across the fallout of a couple of these cases. The council in question has investigated other OPs signed off by the, now de-registered, building surveyor, and have found building deficiencies that were overlooked. The Council has conducted it’s own inspections and are now requiring that Owners’ Corporations rectify these defects. Whether there is an opportunity for re-dress with the original builder is not known to us, but the council is probably not waiting for resolution on that point before compulsorily demanding defect remediation.

Case 1

One new client has a 15 yo building, The Facility Manager has carefully kept (or gathered) correspondence relevant to the original OP. This includes a letter dated only a few weeks before the OP was signed by an independent¬† inspector who checked some aspects of the then new building. This report indicated (amongst other comments) that fire alarm speakers installed in the building were of insufficient cone diameter and proximity to achieve the prescribed 56 dB(A) at the bedhead of a sleeping occupant, and advised that, in this case, speakers bigger than 6″ need to be installed above the bed in each bedroom in the building. The OP was signed very shortly thereafter. Our concerned FM was keen to understand if the prescribed alterations had been complied with and if not, could we now quote to do so, that is, install the bigger speakers¬† described in the inspectors’ letter.

Our initial investigation indicates that
(a)   no larger speakers have been installed and
(b)   the 56 dB(A) may not match the current requirement, and may not even have been the correct figure 15 years ago.

Further code and BCA investigation is required.

Case 2

We have quoted and won a job to upgrade fire alarm speakers in the bedroom of a multi unit dwelling. We duly went along and installed the necessary speakers, removing some of those originally installed. On speaking with some of the tenants we found that our work is a rectification that the Council has recently imposed. Residents have been living in this 5 year old building without mishap until earlier this year when a number of Council initiated demands for rectification have hit the Owners’ Corporation – apparently out of the blue.¬† We suspected this might be a sign of a de-registered building surveyor? Sure enough, the name was one that has been mentioned in the press.

Other Safety Equipment upgrades in existing buildings

Following the Grenfell fire disaster in London, it seems that Victorian State planners have been re-visiting occupant safety in the existing public housing stock in Melbourne. This is generating a bunch of upgrade projects, which the State Planning Minister is proud to describe in his electoral newsletter.

 

All good stuff.

 

We’ll keep you posted on more of these issues as we come across them.

 

 

New clients – gotta love ’em

New clients

New clients – our joy. Of course, hanging onto our clients is a top priority, but getting on-board with new clients is pretty exciting too.

As we explore the new site and discover the Essential Safety equipment, joy can turn to anxiety, even gloom. Concerns arise if we find the baseline data is elusive and documentation seems non-exitant. How did this place get built? Or what information did the previous service provider use? (if we have replaced an earlier contractor).

What about the complete AS1901 Part 1 dossier on Fire doors (see below); compiled initially by the manufacturer then added to by the installer – this is meant to be given to the owner and held on site. If this can’t be made available to us we have to provide a quote to research and investigate with the various parties. What if the builder or Original Equipment Manufacturer are no longer in business? Since testing of Fire doors is a destructive process we can’t investigate your doors to prove they are fire doors, if no such indicator exists in the first place.

For one new client recently we rang the manufacturer of the Fire Doors – identified from the tag information available on some of the doors. This is helping us to understand the practices and mechanisms actually in use. Thus, we can more clearly identify the weaknesses in the intended process (although most of these weaknesses are largely anticipated in the AS code, which explains some of the steps the code lays out.)

What we learned from the Fire Door manufacturer

They sell a door and frame, as specified, complete with closers, latches, Drop-down door seals (DDS). The¬†Door serial number which appears on the door tag is used by them as a cross reference to the details of all the fittings supplied for that particular door, so there are no manufacturer’s details, models or unique serial numbers observable on the door fittings themselves.

The builders install the door and fittings¬†in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions and prepare a Statutory Declaration stating they have done so. The manufacturer may or may not attend the site to check the details. The manufacturer then issues the AS1901 door and frame tags, for the builder to affix.The tags include year of manufacture and a unique serial number.¬†The manufacturer may never see how the tags are affixed.

The tags may be issued in stages, depending on the overall project construction schedule, or delays for example, if gaps round some doors don‘t initially comply. So the unique serial¬†numbers in a building need not continuous.

These manufacturers expect that a spot checks of these details is part of the due diligence activities of the Registered Building Surveyor who authorises the Certificate of Occupancy.

What we should find when we first get to site

Once the building is ready for tenants or new owners to move in, the building or facility manager sets up systems for maintenance of the Essential Safety equipment. This generally calls for a maintenance contractor, or a number of maintenance contracts where more specialised equipment is installed, eg HVAC, fire pumps, lifts, etc.

We can help you with this contract set-up stage, of course, and we can subcontract specialist equipment contractors if required.

Drawings

Drawings showing the location of all your safety equipment helps us to find all your equipment quickly and without chance of over-looking some items. For example in-duct smoke detectors in the air conditioning can be tricky to spot in an initial walk-around. The drawing of Essential Safety Equipment is probably not the same drawing used to show Evacuation routes for building occupants. The Essential Safety Equipment layout drawing requires considerably more detail than your Evacuation drawings, details which would clutter up the Escape route drawings and render them useless..

Equipment dossiers

We need lists of your Essential Safety equipment, their location and type. (eg. all Emergency lights, fire doors, firewater valves)

For more complex or unusual equipment we also need access to your maintenance manuals. Often the Operating and Maintenance instructions produced by the manufacturer comes as a combined manual.

In the absence of ready made equipment lists we need to generate our own asset list from scratch for your premises. THis allows us to discharge our responsibilities in a comprehensive manner. This is typically a time-consuming and potentially wasteful activity. It is prone to omissions and confusion, generally requiring a number of iterations and repeated visits. We can’t include for this in our quote, if we ever want to win any work. This phase can be well beyond initial site familiarisation, which is always expected. Inevitably we must seek compensation if we find it must be done. Without comprehensive asset lists and equipment details we can’t meet the AS1851 maintenance requirements. And if you change maintenance contractor, the new incumbent has to scavenge what they can from the previous “unsatisfactory” contractor. Or repeat the whole process.

Do we want to do this?

Do we want to spend lots of time hunting down all the far flung or hidden safety equipment on your site, and document all the relevant details? Then negotiating how this is to be paid for?

No we don’t.¬† ¬† ¬†It’s simply not the best use of your $.

How can we help?

We’d like to help you know what information you most probably do have somewhere.

Give us a ring on

 1300 134 971