Keeping up to date on Standards
Standards Australia is the nation’s peak non-government standards organisation. Tim Wheeler, National Sector Manager for Building and Construction, provides us with an update on what’s happening in the standards world.
FIRE SAFETY REQUIREMENTS IN AUSTRALIA’S BUILDING CODE
A lot of attention has been drawn to the fire safety of buildings recently, especially after the November 2014 high-rise apartment fires in Melbourne’s Docklands. Given the fact that so much of our time is spent indoors, it becomes clear that not only do we need to mitigate the potential damage from fire hazards by ensuring appropriate, working smoke alarms, sprinklers and evacuation procedures, we need to start with prevention and protection by using the right building materials in the first place.
In Australia, fire safety requirements are set out by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) in the National Construction Code (NCC). The NCC provides performance requirements for many aspects of building and construction which are based on outcomes. For example, the regulators may call for all buildings and fittings to be constructed in a way that meets minimum performance requirements for combustibility, and for all buildings to install up-to-date fire detection and sprinkler systems. These requirements are set out in the NCC, which may then refer to Australian or international standards as one way for builders to meet these requirements.
Some fire-related Australian standards referenced in the National Construction Code include the joint Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1530 Methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structure; AS/NZS 1668, The use of ventilation and air conditioning in buildings, Part 1, Fire and smoke control in multi-compartment buildings; and AS 3786 Smoke alarms, to name a few.
OUR ROLE IN THE STANDARDS AND CONFORMANCE SYSTEM
Having the right standards is just one part of the story. As shown by the case of the Melbourne Docklands fire, applying and complying with standards is quite another matter – and we all have a role to play.
On Standards Australia’s part, we work closely with the Australian government and stakeholders from the industry and community to develop Standards related to fire detection and fire safety, which are referenced in Australia’s building and construction code.
We are a developer of Standards; we do not enforce, regulate or certify compliance with these Standards. What we do is to form technical committees by bringing together relevant parties and stakeholders, who develop standards through a process of consensus. It is then up to governments to make these standards mandatory in their regulation and to enforce them.
The Victorian Metropolitan Fire Brigade, in a report on the Melbourne Docklands apartment fire, called for people in the building industry – such as designers, surveyors and certifiers – to adopt building products with current certificates of compliance to fire safety standards, and to ensure compliance with all conditions imposed on the certificate. The standards and conformance system for building and construction has many players and we all need to do our part for public health and safety.
AUSTRALIA AND SINGAPORE EXPAND COOPERATION IN STANDARDS
2015 has seen Standards Australia strengthening its partnerships with other countries.
On the occasion of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s official visit to Singapore in June 2015, Standards Australia and SPRING Singapore, Australia and Singapore’s national standards bodies, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a formal framework to strengthen, promote and develop cooperation on standardisation and related activities between the two countries.
The MOU was signed by the chief executives from both national standards bodies and witnessed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
One of the key elements of the MOU is an agreement for both parties to harmonise standards in mutually-agreed high priority sectors, with an initial focus on the building and construction and functional food sectors. The goal is to boost bilateral trade and investment through enhanced cooperation in standards and open up market opportunities for both economies.
REVIEW OF AGED STANDARDS
With over 7000 Australian Standards in our catalogue, we constantly strive to keep our catalogue contemporary and relevant. Standards should be living documents and reflect changes in technology and society. This is why we review Standards that are over ten years old (we call these “Aged Standards”), and if they are under the purview of an active Technical Committee, we ask these Technical Committees to consider whether the content of these Standards is still relevant. This process is called “reconfirmation”.
In May and June 2015, the following Standards were reconfirmed:
– AS 2701-2001 Methods of sampling and testing mortar for masonry construction
– AS 2049-2002 Roof tiles
– AS 4597-1999 Installation of roof slates and shingles (Non-interlocking type)
For more information on the ongoing review of Aged Standards, please visit our website (www.standards.org.au).
A RECIPE FOR AN AUSTRALIAN STANDARD
Ever wondered what goes into the making of an Australian Standard? There are a few “ingredients” involved, such as a rigorous assessment on the net benefit to Australia, and stakeholder support from the industry and community. We rely upon the expertise of our technical committee members, who are representatives from industry, government, regulators, and consumer organisations. All Standards are developed on the basis of consensus.
If you have some time today, catch Standards Australia’s video on “A Recipe for An Australian Standard” on our YouTube channel. The video showcases the people behind the development of an Australian Standard. You can find this video on Standards Australia’s YouTube channel (search for ‘Standards Australia’ on www.youtube.com)