Do walls separating balconies require an FRL?

2017 NCC Information Seminars

The 2017 NCC Information Seminars included a presentation on ‘Do walls separating balconies require an FRL?’ as part 5 of the 13 part BCA sessions delivered throughout February and March 2017.


Do walls separating balconies require an FRL?

So this is a question about Specification C1.1 fire resisting construction.

Specifically, do we have to provide fire resisting construction in spots like these?

So these are all individual units and between the two units, we've got this sort of screen wall attached.

Now, before you think, oh yeah the answer is there because this building's built.

This building is in Austria.

You might have the building code of Austria but this building isn't subject to the Building Code of Australia.

So if it was in Australia, under the Building Code of Australia BCA, do we have to provide an FRL to these little screen wall arrangements there?

Any protection of openings?

So we've got a thought about protection of openings.

So we've got the ....we can call it our external wall there.

But when we got these little screen.... so it's a very funky zigzag arrangement, but these are all balcony.

Actually, we'll get on plan.

I'll put the question to it this way.

Here's the top level of this building.

We've got a fire resisting wall between the two sole occ. units.

Does that wall need to extend across the balcony like that?

Yes or no? Is anybody brave enough to say yes or no?

[Response from audience]  

And again, this is a comment.

The comment was if you didn't hear, is that the BCA doesn't specify the distance from where it becomes an external or wall or not an external wall.

Judgement. We're always providing judgement, particularly when you've got things like winter gardens.

Where is the external wall?

In this case, we'll call the external wall for the purpose of today right here, and this therefore the balcony.

And we've got these little screen arrangements.

Do we have to fire rate that one?

No one's game. No. Any yes' in the room?

We've got one yes and the rest are no's.

Let's go through the provision shall we.

So, we're looking at tables 3, 4 and 5 of Spec C1.1

Table 3 for type A,

Table 4 for type B,

Table 5 for type C construction.

Now, there's number of reasons for these tables in structural adequacy, CP1, but we're looking today at CP2: controlling the spread of fire within a building.

And for the purpose of the exercise, we're going to go to Table 3 and here's part Table 3 of Spec C1.1, and the first things to know is that we're looking at walls between or bounding sole occupancy units.

What's a sole occupancy unit?

Defined term.

It is a room or other part of the building which is the occupation to the exclusion of others.

So this could be your apartment building, like in our example here.

It could be the cafe down the road.

That's a sole occupancy unit because it's occupied to the exclusion of others.

My mechanic.

His workshop is in a building which he shares with an air conditioner installer so my mechanic, his part, is a sole occupancy unit.

It's a partnership to the exclusion of others.

So we come to our top floor here.

Here is an apartment.

It's a dwelling to the exclusion of all others.

That's a sole occ. unit.

But that's not all to the sole occ. unit.

Because, when I step out onto my balcony or on to my terrace, it is to the exclusion of others, is it not?

So everything here in blue is a sole occ. unit.

It is a part of the building which is for the occupation to the exclusion of others.

And so it follows that we've got this part here between my terrace and the neighbour's terrace which is going from one sole occ. unit to the next.

And we've got this little screen wall in Austria.

And under the BCA, that's okay.

That construction is fine because you'll note that it applies to internal walls between or bounding sole occupancy units.

That's on the internal wall, isn't it?

So as our friend pointed out, where is the external wall of the building?

We've identified that our little part area, the screen wall, defining one sole occ. unit from the next, is not an internal wall, therefore, it is not caught by Table 3 here.

Now, I have to point out that there's plenty of reasons why a part of a building would need to have a fire resistance level that could be supporting another part.

You know the floor above might need an FRL in support of another part.

You need to support that below.

It could be the location of the boundary would necessitate making an element in a building have an FRL.

What I'm saying is and I've noticed that practically everybody agreed with this.

You can't point to this Table and say that you need to put fire resisting construction between one sole occ. unit and the next.

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