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Wood Fire Safety – smoke detector regulations (NZHHA)

Smoke Alarm Regulations (from NZ Home Heating Association)

Clause F7 of the Building Code has been amended to require the following:

That ..."appropriate means of detection and warning for fire must be provided within each household unit". (Performance F7.3.2). The amendment to the regulations came into force on 24th April 2003.

The amendment does not apply to existing homes, but the regulations will mandate the installation of smoke alarms when a building undergoes an alteration or change of use to become a home, or when any alteration is made to an existing home that requires a building consent. (BIA News April 2003).

Smoke alarms shall be listed or approved by a recognised national authority as complying with at least one of:
UL217, CAN/ULC 5531,
AS 3786,BS 5446:Part 1.
(F7/AS1 3.2.2 Acceptable Solution)

The smoke alarms may be battery powered and are not required to be interconnected. In addition, they shall provide a hush facility having a minimum duration of 60 seconds (F7/AS1 3.2.3) (a hush facility is a button on the smoke alarm which silences the alarm for a limited time after activation. This allows the cause of a nuisance alarm to be cleared without removing the battery to silence the smoke alarm).

Therefore, smoke alarms must comply with F7/AS1 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 ie. they must be of approved standard and they must have a hush facility provided. (There are some smoke alarms which comply with Clause 3.2.2 but do not have a hush facility provided – these will not be acceptable).

Smoke alarms shall be located on the escape routes on all levels within the household unit. On levels containing the sleeping spaces, the smoke alarms shall be located either:
(a) In every sleeping space.
OR
(b) Within 3.0m of every sleeping space door.

In this case, the smoke alarms must be audible to sleeping occupants on the other side of closed doors.

Installation is to be carried out in conjunction with manufacturers' instructions, AS 1670.6 and the Building Code requirements.

Section 38 of the Building Act requires that – "No building consent shall be granted for the alteration of an existing building unless the territorial authority is satisfied that after the alteration the building will ......comply with the provisions of the building code for means of escape from fire ...... as nearly as reasonably practicable, to the same extent as if it were a new building, .........."

The BIA's legal advisers reading of Sections 34 and 43 of the Building Act is that from midnight on 24th April 2003 –
Territorial Authorities shall not issue building consents for the construction or alteration of buildings containing household units unless they comply with the Building Code as amended (unless the territorial authority grants a waiver or modification).

What does this mean?

Whenever work is carried out on a dwelling that requires a building consent, no matter how minor that work is (eg. installation or relocation of a solid fuel heater) the whole dwelling is to be upgraded with smoke detectors to comply, not just the area to be altered.

If the dwelling is already fitted with smoke detectors but these do not comply with the amendment (eg. without hush facility) the territorial authority may require the whole dwelling to be upgraded with smoke detectors to comply. In this instance, a Code Compliance Certificate may not be issued if a Building Consent has already been granted. It is believed that territorial authorities are going to rigorously enforce the amendment so you will need to inform your customers accordingly.

Useful link:
http://www.fire.org.nz/

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