For many specifiers, changes to Fire Certification over the last 12 – 18 months has been a frustrating process, as there has been uncertainty around what changes would occur. The risk of specifying a cladding that perhaps won’t be compliant at construction stage has been high. Over the last 18 months, Meccano has researched the various test methods, paths to compliance and the reasons behind the changes. Fuelled by the Docklands fire and the tragedy in the UK, a shiver has been sent through the building industry, which has left specifiers heads spinning. Some suppliers are still not up to date with the changes, so it’s important to know the back ground and reasons behind the changes, so an informed decision can be made:
We have summarised our research into the following points and expanded below:
- 2016 NCC – Australian Standards Certification – Methods of test & compliance
- Amendment to 2016 NCC – February 2018
- 2019 NCC – what’s changed
1. 2016 NCC – Australian Standards Certification – Methods of test & compliance
Option A – AS 1530.1 was a direct path to compliance & the test results are either a pass or fail. The problem with this test, is that as part of the test criteria, the material needs to be homogenous. As an example, a laminated panel (like ACP) can’t be tested under this test method as an entire material. We have seen 1530.1 test reports, where the product description for an ACP panel was simply raw aluminium sheet (the core wasn’t tested).
Option B – AS/NZ 1530.3 could be used in conjunction with a report that deemed the material non-combustible in accordance with BCA clause C1.12 (Deemed to Satisfy – DTS). The problem we saw with this test is that the radiant heat was focused on the face of the cladding, so for example the core of an ACP didn’t seem to be properly tested. Clause C1.12 also allowed up to 1mm of glue which is usually highly flammable & could cause the panel to de-laminate.
2. Amendment to 2016 NCC – February 2018
In February 2018, AS 5113 replaced 1530.1 as the direct path to compliance. I like this test method as it tests the whole wall system (as pictured below) & is in essence, a real-life test. AS 5113 is based on a British Standards test (BS 8414 part 1 and 2 2015), but Australian Standards added a component called the “debris component”. The trouble we have seen with the debris component is that it’s too strict and most suppliers are not passing it. Only 2kg of debris is allowed to fall onto the ground during the test procedure, and there is no criteria for the size of particles. The theory is good, in that burning debris is dangerous if pieces of cladding fall to the ground either as pieces large enough to cause injury, or as burning embers that could spread the fire or land on people evacuating the building. 2kg of dust though, that extinguishes quickly (within 1m of falling) seems too strict & our understanding is that this is currently under review.
AS 5113 provides a framework for the classification of external wall systems and refers to test methods, ISO 13785-2 and AS 1530.4-2005 Appendix B7.
3. 2019 NCC – what’s changed
The 2019 NCC was released in May 2019 and has addressed many of the issues listed above.
Option A – The AS5113 test is still the direct path to compliance – the debris component is apparently still being reviewed.
Option B – The DTS path has been changed to AS1530.1. All components need to be tested individually though (as the test criteria still states that the material needs to be homogenous). There is still an exemption for up to 1mm of glue (total), so in theory, if a laminated panel like ACP has 1530.1 test certificates (pass) for the aluminium sheet and the core (tested separately), and has a max of 1mm of glue to laminate it together, it’s deemed non-combustible & compliant.
If you are specifying non-combustible cladding, I would recommend putting the safest spec together that you can & filing all documents in the project file. The safest spec in my opinion would be a cladding with either the AS5113 certification (if you can find it), or a cladding that doesn’t use any glue. The investigation into fire safety seems to be on going and further amendments could come out. The weak points at the moment seem to be the glue and also applied coatings – applied coatings could be looked into with regard to spread of flame.