As balconies age, they are subject to rotting and other maintenance problems, such as termite damage, corrosive effects and stress from heavy loadings. A maintenance program is imperative to extend the life and ensure the ongoing safety of existing balconies and decks and to prevent potential structural collapse.
The process to build, rebuild, renovate or significantly repair a home in areas subject to bushfire threat is the same as in other areas of the municipality; however after March 2009 these areas are subject to a building standard.
After 11 March 2009 all new and replacement homes, constructed and located in these areas must be designed with improved bushfire protection and comply with the new Victorian residential building standard Australian Standard (AS 3959).
This standard applies to all new homes and assesses the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) applicable to the location and design of the building. Your building designer, architect or builder can advise you on the most appropriate home design by looking at the appropriate BAL and then applying the construction methods most appropriate to meet your needs.
Some site plans may be assessed on paper alone, while most higher risk sites will require a site investigation. The Victorian Building Authority may also be involved in the verification of the site assessment process at the higher risk levels. If you intend to be an owner/builder, you should contact your Building Surveyor for advice.
New regulations for private bushfire shelters (bushfire bunkers)
The Victorian Government has introduced new interim regulations for the installation of private bushfire bunkers which require property owners who intend to construct a private bushfire shelter to obtain a building permit.
The regulations contain performance requirements relating to things such as accessing and exiting a bushfire shelter and facilities to be provided, including fire safety systems.
The Regulations require the building owner to maintain all safety fittings, equipment and safety features installed within a building. Owners are also required to prepare an Annual Essential Safety Measures Report and keep records of maintenance checks, service and repair work, and make this available for inspection by the Municipal Building Surveyor or Chief Fire Officer.
What is an essential safety measure?
Essential safety measures are listed in the Building Code of Australia, and include safety systems such as:
Air conditioning systems, Exit doors, Early warning systems, Emergency lifts and lighting, Emergency lighting, Emergency power supply, Emergency warning systems, Exit signs, Fire control centres, Fire curtains and doors, Fire extinguishers, Fire detectors and alarm system, Fire hydrants, Fire isolated stairs, Fire rated materials, Fire windows, Mechanical ventilation, Passage ramps, Path of travel to exits, Smoke alarms, Smoke control systems, Sprinkler Systems.
What are my responsibilities?
Councils have a responsibility under building legislation for the enforcement of building safety within their municipality. Building owners have an obligation to ensure that an essential safety measure, piece of safety equipment, fitting or other safety measure is maintained so that it operates satisfactorily.
What happens if an owner doesn't comply?
The Municipal Building Surveyor or Chief Officer of the relevant fire brigade is responsible for the enforcement of these regulations.
Non-compliance may result in an infringement notice issued by Council or the Fire Brigade up to $1000 and further non compliance may result in prosecution in which a fine may be imposed of $70,000 for an individual or $350,000 for companies for each breach of the Regulations. More importantly, non-compliance could place not only building occupants at risk but also passers-by and the occupants of adjoining buildings.
Adequate maintenance is the best means of ensuring that fire safety systems will operate reliably if an emergency arises.
A building permit is not required for the installation of a rainwater tank only with the current building regulations. However a rainwater tank is required to have an overflow connected to the stormwater drainage system and, if constructed on a stand, the stand needs to be appropriately designed to withstand the loads imposed.
A rainwater tank must be located in a position that does not affect any existing buildings or create detriment to adjoining property owners.
Smoke alarms are compulsory and must be installed in residential buildings on or near the ceiling of every storey.
What type of smoke alarm should be used?
Smoke alarms must meet the Australian Standard AS3786-1993 required by the building regulations. All new residential buildings, constructed on or after 1 August 1997, must have smoke alarms connected directly to the consumer power mains as well as having a battery back up.
Residential buildings constructed before 1 August 1997 can be fitted with a battery powered smoke alarm.
Smoke alarms are intended to detect smoke before it reaches people sleeping in a building, therefore they must be located in a position designed to wake sleeping occupants up in time to evacuate a building.
It is important that your smoke alarms are checked and maintained on a regular basis.
To avoid termite infestation, all new building work must be designed to protect the building structure against termites. We reference the Australian Standard AS3660 for this.
The building regulations require all new buildings, renovations and extensions built within designated termite areas to have some form of management against termite attack.
The Building Code of Australia provides two strategies for termite management:
Use of termite resistant materials for primary structural elements
Installation of a chemical or physical barrier system
Following the installation of the termite barriers a durable notice is required to be fixed to the building in a prominent location advising the building occupants of the system that should be inspected and maintained.
More detailed advice about termite management and tips for avoiding and managing termites: