Category Archives: Building Surveyors

Essential Services Maintenance – Could your building be comprimised?

All buildings have Essential Safety Measurement requirements these components and systems require inspection and/or maintenance so that the level of safety they provide does not deteriorate over time to an unacceptable level. It has been recognised that there will be benefits to safety, efficiency and better management of risk as a consequence of delivering a consistent approach to the maintenance of essential safety measures in buildings. Building owners have a responsibility to maintain their premises as a safe environment, ensuring that all safety measures operate as required and in accordance with the various legislative requirements.

The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the common pitfalls that will result if a consistent approach to the regulation of maintenance of essential safety measures for Class 2 to 9 buildings is not maintained. Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 re-affirms a requirement for employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees, as well as ensuring that people (other than employees) are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the employer’s undertaking while they are at the employer’s place of work.

Take a look around your building right now and you will most likely identify a few of the following hazards. Most building occupants will cause some of the following examples to occur without realising they have potentially compromised the building’s performance in the event of an emergency.

Multi-Storey Residential Building:

  1. Storage of combustible material in fire isolated stairway;
  2. Holding open of self-closing fire doors;
  3. Cabling installed in electrical shaft without re-installing fire rated pillows and cushions in the penetration;
  4. Insertion of additional door hardware to fire rated apartment doorways that compromise the fire resistance of the door set;
  5. Maybe over time a small multi-purpose room could be created at the end of a corridor (i.e. lightweight partitions and door set) without extending smoke detection or sprinkler  system;
  6. Installation of any caged storage areas to basement car-park by residents over time may cause a blockage of the required egress path;
  7. Maintenance of any required separating fire rated walls between apartments may be at risk due to inability to obtain access to all apartments;

Multi Storey Office Building:

  1. Over time there may have been a few of Internal fit outs without a building permit and could affected the location of many primary things including portable and fixed fire-fighting equipment, exit signs and paths of travel to exits;
  2. An internal fit out in the past or that has taken place recently, can cause the path of travel width and distance to an exit to be change. This includes encroachment of minimum required exit path widths within the building.
  3. Internal fit outs undertaken to offices may endanger the occupants caused by the lack of smoke detector and/or sprinkler coverage;
  4. The building may have had just an internal refurbishment with the introduction of some illegal commercial grade carpet within a fire isolated stairway or office area.
  5. Moveable office furniture (couches) placed in inappropriate places, blocking essential services, i.e. Signage, fire hose reels, obstacles affecting access to an accessibility area; smoke detection systems all these may deteriorate over time to an unacceptable level if left unattended. Essential Safety Measurements must be checked on an annual basis.

 Large Industrial Building:

  1. Panic bolts and additional locking hardware get installed to exit doors over time if unchecked (doors must always be openable with single handed downward action and without a key);
  2. Installation of manufacturing equipment for the proposed use of the building may cause the blockage of a required exit sign or door;
  3. An office constructed inside a factory may have failed to extend the required detection system or relocate Portable fire fighting equipment;
  4. The construction of a mezzanine storage area with non-complying balustrade and ladder access (a work safe problem nobody wants);
  5. The underside of a mezzanine may have not been provided with the correct smoke detector and / or sprinkler coverage;
  6. The change of use may have occurred without obtaining a new occupancy permit and essential safety measures schedule (i.e. changed from warehouse to factory – occupancy of excessive hazard);
  7. A fire hydrant system may not have been maintained for many years contrary to the required 3 yearly flow test being done.

Low Rise Residential Buildings:

  1. Smoke detectors may not of been installed or maintained in the common corridors, these requirements save lives, maintenance checks must be performed in accordance with the occupancy permit conditions;
  2. Some of the required egress stair fire doors are commonly held open and signage is not lawfully maintained;
  3. The egress stair fire doors are required to maintain a maximum 10mm gap permitted by AS 1905.1 this sometimes changes with different floor covering being installed over the life of a building;
  4. The introduction of required exit signage to be installed in a lower basement car park may never have been replaced after vandalism;
  5. The identification of compromised switch board fire rated walls, broken by unprotected service penetrations;
  6. Active firefighting equipment and passive systems that may have been tampered with or compromised due to damage or left open at all-times without knowledge;
  7. Sometimes only the tag record of hydrant maintenance is stamped with no record of level or nature of testing performed.

 

The next time you go for a walk around your building take note of what you see, remaining vigilant throughout the year ensures the ongoing safety of the people who use the building and will make your annual reporting a breeze.

What building surveyors do

Building Surveyors are experts in a range of building legislation, technical codes and construction standards. They are in high demand by other allied professions like Architects, Engineers, Town Planners and Builders for their knowledge and expertise, and are often called upon to sit on design teams in the early stages of projects to provide their expert advice.

Building Surveyors have extensive knowledge of the Building Act and Regulations, Building Code of Australia and over 90 Australian, New Zealand and International construction Standards called up in legislation. They have a broad knowledge of Town Planning issues and in some states are permitted to certify subdivisions and issue town planning certificates.

The Building Act creates the roles of private and municpal Building Surveyors. A municipal Building Surveyor is a person who is employed by a Council, whereas a private Building Surveyor is a person who operates as a private entity. Nearly all Building Surveyors are also qualified Building Inspectors.

While Building Surveyors are educated to practice across a number of disciplines, many are now specialising in one or more of the following areas:

  • disabled access
  • fire safety engineering
  • energy efficiency and sustainable development
  • construction law
  • forensic inspection
  • dispute resolution
  • maintenance of essential services
  • private certification
  • building materials science
  • code development & legislation
  • expert witness situations
  • alternative building solutions

One function of a Building Surveyor is to certify plans and structures in accordance with building legislation and to issue a building permit to start construction.

The role of a Building Surveyor is to assess design documentation for compliance with the Building Act, Regulations and National Construction Code to ensure a safe, healthy and sustainable built environment.

 

There are few buildings these days that are not required to have the expertise of a Building Surveyor to assess and approve a building for construction and occupancy.

Building Surveyors also approve plans in accordance with building legislation, issue a building permit to commence construction and then manage the inspection process from foundations through to completion.

Building Surveyors look at a wide range of buildings and structures including shops, high-rise office and residential apartment buildings, train stations, parking complexes, towers, masts and antennas, schools, hospitals, prisons, factories, storage buildings, marinas, laboratories, aged care buildings, pools and dwellings of all shapes, sizes and materials.

Their role is different from that of a Land Surveyor who surveys subdivisions of land, taking into account the slope, geography and topography of land or a Quantity Surveyor who estimates the costs of materials and can provide taxation schedules for buildings.

While it can be viewed that their role is primarily to issue and maintain building permits, a Building Surveyor has functions beyond this.

Building Surveyors can assess existing structures for compliance in a number of different areas such as passive and active fire services, structural soundness, fit for purpose assessment of the suitability of a building for a particular use, pre-purchase and owner-built inspection audits of existing buildings and bushfire risk assessment services.

One of the most important functions of a Building Surveyor is the qualified and experienced advice they can offer your next project. They are valuable member of your project team from day one that can help you achieve Regulatory compliance in a cost-effective and efficient manner.