Changes to the BCA

Improving early response to residential fires through interconnection of alarms
For a number of years now the BCA has required smoke alarms, or where appropriate,heat detection alarm systems throughout residential occupancies. The location of the alarms in strategic positions such as a hallway serving bedrooms is designed to allow an early response by occupants to a fire.

The size or layout of some residences can create situations where a number of alarms may be distributed throughout the occupancy (eg two storey dwellings). In a Class 1 building, within sole‐occupancy units of a Class 2 or 3 building and in a Class 4 part of a building, alarms will be required to be interconnected so that when one alarm is activated it will activate all other alarms in the occupancy.
This feature will increase the likelihood of occupants being aware of the presence of a fire.

Whilst acknowledging that the final Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) demonstrated a net cost, the Board considered the following factors in its conclusion to include a requirement for interconnection of smoke alarms in sole occupancy units in Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 buildings where more than one alarm is provided:
The life safety of building occupants, and particularly those in residential buildings (acknowledging additional risks associated with being asleep), was considered to be of paramount importance.

The cost to the community of interconnecting alarms at the time of construction is not considered to be large.

Acknowledging that the RIS meets COAG guidelines, the Board was of the view that saving of a life through the interconnection of alarms represented a greater value to the community than that presented in the RIS
For many years, the BCA has contained requirements for stairway treads, landings and ramps to have slip‐resistant, non‐skid or non slip properties. However, the BCA did not identify what level of slip
resistance was required or how it could be measured. This situation created uncertainty, risk and disputes about what was considered acceptable.

An Australian Standard for measurement of slip resistance existed but was not considered appropriate for referencing in the BCA. A recent revision of this standard (AS 4586) resolved these issues and, as a consequence, we are now able provide an answer to the question, “What does slip‐resistant, non‐skid and non‐slip really mean?” NCC 2014 includes minimum slip resistance classifications for different scenarios and references AS 4586 –2013 as a means of determining slip resistance.

It should be noted that the NCC will allow acceptance of test reports based on the 2004 edition of AS/NZS 4586 and issued prior to the 2013 edition of AS 4586 being referenced in the NCC. However, test reports prepared after the BCA reference date of the 2013 edition of AS 4586 must be based on that version