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Specified systems and compliance schedules - requirements for security and gas detection systems

Some systems in buildings are so fundamental to the ongoing safe use of the building that they must be regularly inspected, tested and maintained, and records of these activities kept. These systems are known as 'specified systems' and include fire safety systems, as well as building features such as lifts and ventilation systems.

The Building Act 2004 requires a building not used as a single household unit to have a compliance schedule if it has any specified system. This applies regardless of why the specified system was installed in the first place. Therefore, if a building has a specified system it must be on the building's compliance schedule. (Note that the only instance when a single household unit requires a compliance schedule is if it has a cable car.)

The Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005 (the 2005 Regulations) set out in Schedule 1 which systems are specified systems. Clause 2 of Schedule 1 provides:

Automatic or manual emergency warning systems for fire or other dangers (other than a warning system for fire that is entirely within a house-hold unit and serves only that unit).

Accordingly, any system in any building (except a single household unit) that alerts people to fire or other danger is a specified system. This includes:

  • fire alarm systems
  • carbon monoxide detectors
  • flammable gas detectors.

It is common for owners to want a security system for their building. Often the security system comes with smoke detectors which are monitored and connected to an alarm system, even though a fire alarm system is not required for Building Code compliance.

Owners need to be aware, however, that such a security system is a specified system and its installation comprises building work for which a building consent is necessary. Further, in all instances other than within single household units, security systems with smoke detectors must be on the building's compliance schedule.

This means that the plans and specifications submitted for building consent must include the details of the proposed procedures for inspection and routine maintenance of the specified systems for the purposes of the compliance schedule (see the definition of 'plans and specifications' in section 7 of the Building Act). On satisfactory completion of the work, the building consent authority will issue a code compliance certificate along with the building's compliance schedule. The compliance schedule will include the necessary inspection and maintenance requirements to keep the security system with smoke detectors in good working order.

Building consent authorities usually accept fire alarm systems that comply with NZS 4512: Fire Detection and Alarm Systems in Buildings and that have been certified as such by an accredited alarm system certifier. However, security systems with smoke detectors would not normally be expected to comply with the same Standard to achieve Building Code compliance. Further, compliance schedule requirements do not need to be as stringent. Likely compliance schedule requirements for this type of security system would comprise:

  • a weekly check, by a person nominated by the owner, that the sounders are operating,
  • a quarterly check that the smoke detectors are effective, and
  • annual maintenance by a service engineer, including cleaning of the sensors in the detector.

The maintenance and inspection requirements of the compliance schedule for the security system with smoke detectors must be certified annually by an independent qualified person (IQP) on Form 12A so that the building owner can issue the annual building warrant of fitness.

Proposed systems for warning of other dangers, such as gas leaks, are also specified systems. Accordingly, the same requirements for building consent and compliance schedules apply, as described above for security systems with smoke detectors.

Signage

Evacuation signs associated with certain specified systems, including security systems with smoke detectors, are themselves defined by the 2005 Regulations as specified systems (Clause 15(d) of Schedule 1 of the 2005 Regulations).

These signs have to be in place and must be visible under all circumstances that may occur in the building. Normally this means they will have to be internally or otherwise illuminated, including when power is lost to the building.

All details of this signage need to be included on the building consent application's plans and specifications, along with the proposed inspection and maintenance requirements for inclusion in the building's compliance schedule.

Internally illuminated signs should also be listed on the compliance schedule as part of the emergency lighting system, as well as exit signage.