Many of New Zealand’s commercial buildings do not meet fire safety standards and are putting lives and property at risk, says the Insurance Council of New Zealand.
The ICNZ said inspections and risk survey in the construction industry were commonly finding passive fire construction work that did not meet the New Zealand Building Code.
Passive fire protection aims to contain fires, or slow their spread, through the use of fire-resistant walls, floors, and doors.
Non-compliant work being uncovered includes unprotected penetrations through fire walls and floors, missing smoke dampeners, and fire and smoke control doors with incorrect seals.
ICNZ’s John Lucas said passive fire construction required intricate knowledge, and that the builders, plumbers, and electricians that were currently installing it did not have any specific training.
“As a construction industry we are not doing a very good job and it’s a concern.”
“My discussions with various experts in the fire protection industry and with building consent authority managers confirmed that New Zealand has a potential systemic passive fire non-compliance problem.”
“I’ve been told by fire protection companies who do the work that a lot of staff just don’t read the instructions supplied by the fire engineer. They are in a hurry and they put it together they way they think it should be done and often it’s not correct.”
An increasing number of New Zealanders now live live and work in high rise and multi-unit buildings, and Lucas said non-compliance was actually more common in new buildings than old ones.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are now considering whether passive fire protection should become a specific qualified trade.