Preamble: Firstly, let me say I nearly pulled my hair out writing this article and I consider myself a little knowledgeable when it comes to fire doors. I don’t know everything but I’m yet to find a person who does.
I have been involved in the service, maintenance, installation and manufacturing of fire rated doors and frames for over 12 years (and in the building game in general for over 22 years) and customers are always asking, usually after they are called back to a job due to defects identified by another company or a certifier, why the hell are fire doors so confusing?
Fire doors are not that confusing. Basically if it is tested and approved for use and you install, test, tag and certify the doorsets as required by the standards and any local regulations then you should never have a problem. The problem seems to be a lack of understanding of what is actually tested and approved for use and even more confusing for the punter, how do I find out if it is tested and approved for use? Where do I go to get answers?
Let’s get into it: Standards are established, revised, amended based on new information to ensure the minimum requirements for the build environment take account the engineering and science that evolve to continually seek to improve either amenity, structural stability or effectiveness in fire.
This unfortunately makes it difficult for the average installer and/or service technician to keep abreast of what the current information is or even where to find the information. Fire doors are one of the many elements of the build environment covered by Australian standards.
There are 3 main Australian Standards that cover fire doors;
- AS1905.1 – “Components for the protection of openings in fire resistant walls”
- AS1530.4 – “Methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structures – Fire-resistance test of elements of construction”
- AS1851 – “Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment”
In reference to the above standards, AS1905.1 basically describes the minimum design, installation and documentation requirements for fire doors, AS1530.4 sets out the required testing that must occur in order to claim a doorset has a fire rating and AS1851 sets out the ongoing maintenance requirements for fire doors (and other fire protection equipment) once they have been installed and certified.
The current version of these Standards is (taken from the SAI Global web site);
- AS1905.1-2015 (Published 25th August 2015)
- AS1530.4-2014 (Published 10th December 2014)
- AS1851-2012 (Currently under revision with public comment closed 2nd February 2016)
The NCC (National Construction Code which includes the Building Code of Australia) is the principal document which sets out the minimum performance requirements of construction elements, fire doors being one of those elements. The NCC details a list a referenced documents and calls into the document via reference, relevant Australian Standards. The current versions referenced in the NCC (these will be updated on the 1st May 2016) of the relevant standards for fire doors is (Taken from the NCC2015 documentation);
As you can see, the current Australian Standard is not the current referenced standard in the NCC. I would anticipate that the update of the NCC, which will occur on the 1st May 2016, will provide reference to the current Australian Standards being AS1905.1-2015 and AS1530.4-2014.
I have been unable to find a reference to AS1851 within the NCC (if there is someone out there can let me know) so I am assuming that the NCC sees this as a maintenance standard not a standard relating to elements of construction used in the “construction” of a building.
So, a standard reference changes in the NCC what effect does this have? This seemingly little flick of a pen has a major implication on fire resistant doors. In essence, in order to certify an installation to the “current standard” it must be firstly tested and approved under the “current standard” (i.e. the Standard referenced by the BCA).
The current Australian Standard for testing of fire doors, AS1530.4-2005, has been superseded by AS1530.4-2014. As of the 1st May 2016 I would anticipate that the reference for certification of an installation would have to be to the current standard which at that time will be AS1905.1-2015 and AS1530.4-2014. To my knowledge, there has not been a test to a fire door under these standards (there may have been but I am not aware of any) and as such no product would exists that is able to certified to the “current standard”.
There is a comment in the NCC against AS1530.4 which states “[Note: Subject to the note to AS 4072.1, reports relating to tests carried out under earlier editions of AS 1530 Parts 1 to 4 remain valid. Reports relating to tests carried out after the date of an amendment to a Standard must relate to the amended Standard]”.
From this I understand firstly that if I have a product tested under a previous revision of the standard that that product would still be acceptable for use and secondly if I test a new product then it must be tested to the current standard at the time of testing.
Now it gets tricky. So the NCC tells me that a test carried out under an earlier edition is still valid but the certifier wants me to state the current standard edition. How do I know what standard I have to reference if I install, service and or certify fire resistant doorsets? Is it the test standard referenced in AS CA57.1-1972 or AS 1905.1-1976 or AS 1905.1-1982 or AS 1905.1-1984 or AS 1905.1-1990 or AS/NZS 1905.1:1997 or AS 1905.1-2005 or AS 1905.1-2015?
Information is key, you don’t have to know everything but you do need to know where to go to find the answers when you need them and you need to know what Standards relate to the work you do.
There are three (3) main brands in the Australian Market. You need to be aware of what these are and for each brand, know what you can and cannot do to them based on the test approvals each has to support their products. Copies of test approvals will state an FRL (fire resistance level) and the relevant test standard used (i.e. for fire doors that would generally be AS1530.4-YYYY where YYYY is the revision of the standard that the doorset has been tested to).
There is no easy way to know this information apart from arming yourself with information which basically equates to a lot of reading. This article is more a guide to assist you understand what information you need to look for and where you might start to find it.
The three (3) main core brands in the Australian Market are, E-Core® (http://www.e-core.com.au/ ), Firecore® (http://www.firecore.com.au/ ) and Pyropanel® (http://www.pyropanel.com.au/ ). From experience, core manufacturers can be somewhat hesitant to release information regarding testing of their products. It is a shame that this is the case when the net result of most inquiries is to ensure the integrity of their products are maintained and that the installing/servicing/certifying person knows what can and cannot be done to the particular door.
Each of these cores is supported by various tests and opinions over various revisions of the Australian Standards. If you are installing, certifying and/or servicing fire doors I would strongly recommend that you approach each of these companies to see what information is available to you as an installer, certifier and/or servicer of these brands of fire doors.
If you are providing certification, ensure you sight a copy of the fire test report for the products you have purchased and/or installed to ensure your certification cites the correct standard and year which is the information that should be referencing on your certification documentation (this information would then also be used by a service technician to undertake the routine service and inspection of the door set/s).
So, clear as mud? Sorry but there is no silver bullet. I always think of fire doors like this, “if my wife or kids were standing behind this door and there was a fire on the other side would I be confident that it is going to protect them? If it is not good enough to protect my family than I can’t accept it as good enough to protect your family!”.
I would like to see some time in the future, a central store of information mandated at Law to force product manufacturers to provide their “product certification” documentation, a central electronic store of information that anyone with a need or interest could go to obtain information. The NCC in my view would be a good place to have this information centralized but that is probably a discussion for another day.
Disagree with anything or like to add a little more insight, let me know via email email@example.com .