Helping to ensure that buildings are safe

Helping to ensure that buildings are safe
Passive fire systems are key components of the systems checked under the building act.

The business of ‘building warrants of fitness’, conducted under the New Zealand Building Act 2004, may not light too many fires in the heart of the average Kiwi.
However Christine Scammell, executive director of Argest, a leading New Zealand compliance inspection company, reveals there is definitely an altruistic motive underpinning the industry.
Argest has offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and employs 30 staff, but manages up to 400 contractors to undertake inspection services throughout New Zealand.
Eliminating potential harm and keeping occupants of buildings safe is at the core of the building act, and underpins everything Argest does, Christine says.
The consequences of not getting it right has been tragically demonstrated in the likes of major disasters, such as the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London in which 72 people died.
“One of the big things that changed the focus in the New Zealand compliance industry, has been the fall-out from the Grenfell Tower’s fire.”
A key area for compliance is safety systems associated with passive fi re protection, such as fi re and smoke doors and walls.
“If you think about the safety systems that failed on that building, notwithstanding the cladding on the exterior, they had a whole range of other issues in terms of their passive fire protection”
This included missing fire doors, doors not rated to withstand fire to give enough time for people to escape, broken door closers and gaps around windows, along with doors allowing smoke and fire to quickly spread inside and outside the 23 storey building from the fourth floor.
People on the upper floors had little opportunity to escape.
Passive fire systems are key components of the systems checked under the building act in order for Argest to issue a building warrant of fitness. Christine believes issues with passive fire systems, especially in older buildings, have the potential to be significant and there are some in the industry with the view this could be on the same level as the ‘leaky building’ issue.
Helping toensure that buildings are safe“There are likely to be a lot of buildings in New Zealand with the potential to have passive fi re is-sues, especially where there have been alterations, new cabling or ducting installed, or poor maintenance programs in place.”
“From our point of view, we make sure that we’ve got inspectors that have the appropriate qualifications and training, and follow detailed processes to make sure our clients can be confident that inspections are robust.
As well as having the benefit of having a current building warrant of fitness, a professional inspection creates peace of mind for a building owner and may be crucial in the event of an insurance claim.
“It is likely to come to the fore as buildings get more rigorously assessed as part of any claim.”
Argest manages more than 120,000 compliance inspections and issues more than 3,000 building warrants of fitness annually.
It has many significant clients in its portfolio, one being the Ministry of Education where it is responsible for managing building warrants of fitness and inspections for all state schools throughout New Zealand
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