Public safety is the first concern for us all

This week there’s been some media coverage on fire safety and regulation. The story is about how a clarification to the scope of the fire safety Building Code and Verification Method (C/VM2) is being fast-tracked.

Last week, a letter was sent to stakeholders telling us that changes to clarify the scope of the Verification Method would go live on Friday 24 November. Engineers and other industry players expressed concern about possible delays, additional costs for projects currently in progress and the potential for inconsistency in its application across all Building Consent Authorities.

The clarification applies to certain buildings with staged evacuation or hazardous substances. These may include tall buildings, rest-homes or malls. MBIE wants designers to provide additional material and for any extra elements to be checked against the Building Code as part of the Fire Engineering Brief.

Michael James, President of the New Zealand Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) says, “it’s good to see that progress is being made on advancing the outcomes of the fire programme. Unfortunately, I have received an unprecedented amount of feedback over the last few days on the proposed changes to the scope of C/VM2. The changes differ from those proposed, so we are working through the implications.”

This week, we wrote to MBIE expressing our concerns, including a statement from SFPE. We met the next day and asked the hard questions. We aired the points of contention and discussed our mutual expectations. We made clear the importance of consulting with our Technical Groups and Societies.

This interim change will go ahead and we want to minimise disruption to current projects. MBIE have assured us that when a fuller amendment goes out in 2018 as part of the fire programme consultation, it will be subject to a conventional, longer transition period.

MBIE agreed to clarify the definition of hazardous substances and to communicate with all BCAs to make their intent clear. They are also talking further with SPFE.

Michael James says, “we support MBIE's underlying objective of putting a high priority on safety and will continue to engage with them on the subject. We will be working with building owners and regulators to make the transition as smooth as possible.”

Neil Miller is Engineering New Zealand’s Senior Policy Advisor. Engineering New Zealand has been supporting SPFE’s engagement with MBIE and the media on this issue.