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New building standards for non-combustible external walls

In 2018 new building standards for non-combustible external walls came into effect in Western Australia (WA). This information has been developed to provide information on the changes and which types of buildings the changes apply to.

In this article

  • Background to the new WA building standards
  • Changes to WA Building Regulations
  • Questions about the changes
  • Further information

Background to the new WA building standards

The changes to WA Building Regulations for cladding were in response to a decision of Building Ministers nationally who agreed for state regulators to use their available mechanisms to restrict the use of aluminium composite cladding with a polyethylene core in certain applications. 

The changes to Regulation 31HA of the Building Regulations seeks to do this by placing additional conditions on the use of cladding with combustible elements used on Class 2-9 buildings, beyond just the cladding complying with the current National Construction Code (NCC). 

Changes to WA Building Regulations

The Building Regulations 2012 outlines the applicable building standards in Western Australia. The regulations generally require that the NCC be followed, but makes further provision for some specific situations. The changes have introduced additional provisions around controlling the spread of fire via the external walls. 

Regulation 31HA aims to control the performance of an external wall in relation to the potential spread of fire by requiring the building meets the NCC Performance Requirement (CP2) through verification by following Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions of Part C1 or via a Performance Solution using Verification Method CV3, as set out in the NCC Volume One. 

Questions about the changes

1. What types of buildings are affected by the changes?
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The changes affect new Class 2 to Class 9 buildings (multi-residential buildings, hotels, offices, public buildings, etc.) that are generally greater than three storeys and are required under the NCC to be of Type A or Type B Construction.

The changes do not apply to Class 1 buildings (houses). 

2. What is Verification Method CV3?
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A Verification Method is a means of demonstrating that the NCC Performance Requirements will be satisfied as part of a Performance Solution. 

CV3 was included in the NCC in March 2018 and includes the adoption of Australian Standard AS 5113 Classification of external walls of buildings based on reaction-to-fire performance. In short, AS 5113 provides a full-scale fire test for external wall and cladding systems to assess their performance in relation to fire spread. This standard applies to external walls/cladding systems that contain combustible elements. 

In addition to compliance with AS 5113, CV3 also requires other fire safety measures be incorporated in the building. 

3. Do the changes affect external walls built in accordance with the DTS Provisions?
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No. Current DTS Provisions for products that are known to be non-combustible, comply with NCC Clause C1.9(e) (formerly C1.12), or those that are tested and pass the non-combustibility test (AS 1530.1) are not affected by the changes. 

Equally, the changes do not affect the DTS Provisions recently introduced for the concessions for the use of timber. 

4. Do the changes only apply to cladding?
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No. The changes require that the entire wall assembly and any combustible elements within the external wall needs to be considered, not just the cladding.

5.What happens if the cladding that is proposed for the building meets AS 5113 criteria except the falling debris criteria?
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CV3 uses AS 5113:2016 to demonstrate that a façade arrangement does not allow unacceptable spread of fire, including by the limitation of allowable falling debris. However, Regulation 31HA provides that the debris criteria outlined in AS5113 does not need to be met if it can be shown that falling debris resulting from a fire will not prevent the safe evacuation of the building’s occupants.

6. Can I apply to modify the new building standard for a particular project?
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Section 39 of the Act permits a person to apply to the Building Commissioner to set aside or modify a building standard. However the Building Commissioner is prevented from making a declaration unless satisfied that the declaration: 

  • would not result in an increased risk to people, property or the environment, and 
  • is in the public interest or is consistent with the purpose of any other written law or a Commonwealth law. 

For more information refer to application form BA24 – Application for modification or non-application of building standards, which can be found by an internet search for the term ‘BA24’.  

7. What happens if the cladding has a CodeMark certificate?
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Regulation 31J(3) states that a CodeMark certificate must not be used for a Performance Solution demonstrating compliance with CP2 for avoiding the spread of fire via external walls unless the performance solution is verified in accordance with Verification Method CV3.

8. Do the changes affect buildings already built?
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No. The Amendment Regulations are not retrospective in application. However, any new building work in an existing building may be affected.

9. How about your remedial work?
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This new requirement does not apply to buildings that require remedial work that is carried out to ensure that an external wall of an existing building complies with its fire resistance Performance Requirements, which means that in those situations, a Performance Solution can be developed.

Further information

The Amendment Regulations can be found on the Parliament of Western Australia website and the Western Australian Building Commission has released an industry bulletin outlining further details on the changes. 

HIA has also produced detailed information on the NCC 2016 Volume One Amendment 1, which provides useful guidance on the application of the NCC fire safety provisions for external walls of Class 2-9 buildings.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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