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Fire safety in high-rises a hot issue

MEDIA RELEASE

14 October 2005


Fire safety in high-rises a hot issue

Auckland City Council will continue to use independent experts when considering building consent applications for high-rises with only one fire escape.

Councillor Glenda Fryer, chairperson of Auckland City's Planning and Regulatory Committee that endorsed the decision at its meeting yesterday, says Auckland City has relied on the advice of independent experts about fire safety.

"The science of fire engineering is relatively new. Building consent applications for high-rises often list alternatives to the fire safety provisions that are set out in the building code's acceptable solutions. Council officers do not always have the technical knowledge needed to decide if these alternatives are as safe. Because of this they have relied on the advice of independent fire safety experts in the industry," she says.

"In the past, the focus has been on using stairwells as the main means of escape. Now developers are also relying on sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, pressurised stairwells and self-closing apartment doors to ensure the safety of people living in the building. The question that needs to be answered is what combination of these fire safety components is acceptable. Given the technical nature of this area we are looking to the Department of Building and Housing for direction."

Auckland City will continue to use independent experts and refer all building consent applications that do not use the fire safety solutions approved by government for high-rise buildings to the department.

The department has recently made determinations on the fire safety of two developments in Auckland city (the Waldorf Apartments on Bankside Road and the Scene apartments on Beach Road). In both cases, Auckland City had issued a building consent after receiving advice from an independent expert that the alternative fire safety solutions were acceptable.

The department found that the Scene apartments were compliant with the building code and that the Waldorf Apartments were subject to amended building consent conditions and waivers to the code.

ENDS

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