SFPE Discussions

FENZ fire alarm panel approval

Following all Councils requirements for FENZ alarm panel location approval,
and as there is no clear guidance on the FENZ website or from most Councils around the country or via Google as to who or where to send such documentation for approval prior to consent application, I sent a request to the top of the chain in the FENZ organisation for contact details.
Please find attached a list of the interim email addresses to use relevant to the location of your project countrywide.
FENZ will be providing this information eventually on their external website along with the new district maps.
I hope this helps.
Thank you to:
Hamish Smith - Assistant Area Commander - Central Lakes Area, for supplying this list

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Hi Paul
Can you clarify exactly what you mean regarding Council requirement for FENZ approval prior to consent. The alarm panel location and index are the responsibility of the alarm contractor (once appointed) as per NZS 4512. This would be likely to include the FENZ attendance points as well as they dictate the panel location.

Given that the position of the fire alarm panel/ and FENZ attendance point can affect some of the items considered during consenting (and tendering) why would this be left until after contractors have been appointed? While the whole design/ build philosophy around fire warning systems has been pretty standard, showing compliance at consent approval stage is no different than showing compliance for a drainage system at consent approval (which could also be left as a design/ build option). FENZ regularly note that the FAP position as not been agreed when they provide a DR memo. It sounds like Paul is doing the right thing by getting this approval at the start of the project.

All Councils I am dealing with now are asking for a FENZ (stamped/signed) approved site plan showing road frontage and ‘proposed’ Fire Alarm Indicator/Control Panel location as part of the consent application - (considering appliance arrival location).
NZS 4512:2010 (Paragraph 403.1.1) sets the requirements for design, installation, and maintenance -
Location of the fire alarm panel and the index diagram shall be approved by Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
IANZ as part of their auditing of the consenting process require this at consent application correction, where the design refers to NZS 4512 alarms, processors are applying para 403.1.1 requirement - generally this is the expected responsibility of and shown on the architectural site plan, but with Fire Engineer/Designer advice. Note: this was within the rescinded PN 22.

@PaulD yes I ask for the same thing, its good to know I’m not alone. But I have had some less than positive feedback from fire engineers about it lol.

Not sure that the fire engineer/designer should be proposing a location or brokering any discussion between FENZ and the client regarding the alarm system design. The location of the alarm panel is part of the design of the alarm system by the alarm contractor. To pick any particular location could cause a nightmare later if the panel location changes (as, amongst other things, an amendment would be needed for the application). The fire report calls for the performance of the system, but not the system specifics (eg structural post fire stability, fire rated walls etc) so fire reports quite correctly say 4512:XXXX. as the performance and then the alarm system designer/contractor can then talk to FENZ about the location as part of the D and B. This is not a space where the fire engineer should go…

As an Accredited Organization under IANZ, for processing consent applications, I have no recollection of IANZ asking for this during their audits of processing functions, either here or in client BCAs that we deal with. I would be very interested to see who has been asked or if this is just hearsay.

Interesting discussion but I would tend to agree with Alan as the approval required by NZS4512 is a bit more than ‘X marks the spot’. The alarm designer has to take into account many more requirements than just the location and is most certainly outside the scope of the fire engineer and architect.
I have had many discussions with Councils over the years about this and also sprinkler control valve locations when the reality is the consent needs to be issued first then a contractor appointed than a subcontractor appointed before the detailed design of the alarm system can begin. I have been through jobs where the architect and/or the fire engineer have ‘agreed’ the location to keep Council happy only to find with the later input of the alarm subcontractor it doesn’t work and many $$$ later the job is finally corrected. A location given by anyone other than an alarms contractor should be given as ‘subject to…’

Hi Alan and Natalie,
I think you are both correct.

  1. The fire engineer should not have to go there (but may need to).
  2. The agreed critical fire equipment locations should be set in place for building consent.
    The fire protection plans and specifications should be dealt with outside of the fire report and should address approved equipment locations. I take the view that the fire report is a report to the design team only and that the building is constructed from separately detailed plans and specifications (including a separate fire protection specification).
    This normally means that some form of fire protection specification is required. I recommend that this is prepared as a separate document by either:
  • A fire protection engineer,
  • The architect,
  • The fire engineer (as a separate document from the fire report). Just make sure you get a separate fee for it.
    It may be helpful for future building consents if there is a copy of the agreed fire protection equipment locations in the fire report.
    We need to educate the BCA’s that the fire safety design is in the building’s plans and specifications not the fire report.

Agree with Paul and Natalie,
Whether IANZ have asked for it or not at any Audits is beside the point. BCA’s are well aware that IANZ do not deal with the entire gamut of consent requirements for a processor. The question must be directly related to the Performance requirements of the code and it is. Section is the business of Fire design which must demonstrate compliance with this clause and the Performance requirements include the flow from the Objective which is ‘Must be designed’……low probability of delayed or impeded from assisting in rescue operations and performing firefighting operations.

The Performance requirements specifically deal with the information systems - so the question is whether these requirements are an essential part of the Fire Design Philosophy which may assist the Access and Safety for Firefighting operations. I think the question might be 'Is this is an expected part of a fire engineers work or is C5 to be excluded in the fire report for the location of the information systems which facilitate firefighting operations.
If the answer to this is ‘no’, I would then ask - 'what part of C5 is considered by a FE and expected in a fire report? Any? and if ‘any’, why can it be justified to exclude C5.7?

Perhaps one difference is the requirement to comply with 4512 2010 which require FENZ approval (I assume C-docs not yet updated to the 2021 Standard).
C5.7 is mandatory so agree that it cannot be argued well to ‘sort on site’. Must demonstrate compliance with the building code prior to issue - not after.

Any ‘agreement’ between an Architect’ and FE would fall short of the compliance requirements if FENZ not part of that as specified in 4512 (repeated in the updated version 2021).

I totally agree with the comments arguing against this, as the fire report writer is NOT responsible for the alarm design, and it is the contractor who decides on-site where components are to be located following the NZS 4512 standard, and that the system is signed off by an independent qualified certifier, and council inspections have nothing to do with inspecting commercial alarm systems.
Unfortunately, I am being advised through Council pre-vetting/RFI’s and from consent applicants I am involved with that this FENZ approval must accompany consent application, and obviously this push back is also coming via the occasional FENZ review.
Not sure if this is associated with all the information required for the ‘DRAFT’ Compliance Schedule documentation?

For Consent, building design Architects most often want to know where fire service inlets and alarm panels are going to be. It makes sense to resolve this with FENZ at preliminary design stage and for the design Fire Engineer to carry out this function at a time which is typically long before fire protection contractors are involved on the job.

Just by way of a general reply:

Paul - I would push back on that RFI or vetting question and simply point to the alarm contractors responsibility. I would still be interested in who is asking for this?

Mike - I understand your point, but the difficulty is that as fire engineers we don’t normally carry a competency for designing the alarm system. When consent is granted and assuming that you have nominated the alarm panel location, then any change becomes open for an amendment at Gods knows what cost and a possible re litigation of the consent itself.

In general why would the fire engineer specifying the performance want to design the system or part thereof. We don’t design bracing systems, fire walls, penetration seals, facade systems, structural systems as we don’t have a competency to do so, so why step outside our competency and attract liability for that action?

Leave it to those who design and just deal with the consent documentation, leaving the alarm system designer to do a design/build, incorporating advice from FENZ…

Hi Alan,

I can understand where you are coming from, but just like fire walls, façade systems, structural systems, and drainage systems the standards provide the means of design. So a competent person will design the system to meet a particular standard or an acceptable solution.

At consent stage the building officer has to assess whether the work, if built to the design will be compliant to NZ Building Code. In some cases that can be assessed by comparison (eg NZS3604, tested fire wall systems) or by reference to a producer statement and often a peer review (eg for structural engineering).

In the case of a fire warning system the fire engineer states the building requires a type x system designed to NZS4512. That provides a design guide, but doesn’t provide an actual design of the system. Historically that has been left to a specialist design/ build package during construction.

But would that be allowable for say the foundations of the building. That they will be designed and built to comply with NZS1170, or NZS3604. I am sure everyone would agree that those decisions and designs are made prior to application for consent, and then approved by the BCA. It would seem to be no different for the fire warning system; the design needs to be part of the consent process and probably be a specialist designer with a Producer Statement, so the building officer can be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the work will comply.

This is a useful discussion, thanks.
(I also note that the same issue arises for emergency lighting)

Hi Alan,
As per section 49 of the Act, a BCA must issue a building consent only is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the provisions of the building code would be met if the building work were properly completed in accordance with the plans and specifications that accompanied the application’. C5.7 is not an optional requirement and although an alarm panel and index ‘location’ is not specifically stated, I think it is a reasonable request to know this since the location could have a direct bearing on the Firefighting operations.
This is clearly the reason for the FENZ approval requirement in 4512. I suppose the location of the fire panel is of importance to ensure the safety of the firefighters and also to enable efficient and safe information which otherwise may compromise the evacuation of the occupants. While the evacuation procedures may be seen as distinct from the Building Code in terms of the fire report, C5 still links this directly to their work.
There may be numerous variables with regard to the best location and I suppose the best persons to be involved in the final decision is FENZ. The question of who facilitates this involvement with FENZ may be had as a separate conversation from what I think can be well argued as a mandatory requirement of the building code i.e. that the location is actually a reasonable requirement prior to the issuing of the building consent.

Very much agree Mike,
Besides the strong contention that it is actually a reasonable requirement to demonstrate compliance with C5.7 to know prior to issue of consent the location of the alarm, the lesser argument not to leave it to contractors on site to decide is well considered by the following.
This would mean it becomes the contractors responsibility to gain FENZ approval for whatever location they decide is best.
The building inspector turns up and will not be able to pass the inspection unless he/she has evidence of this approval.
Worse - the panel has been installed and FENZ have not been consulted - worse- they eventually are and disapprove of the location etc…ect.
All this illustrates the sense in requiring the approval from FENZ prior to the consent. I appreciate the comments which argue this role is not the FE’s and given that the location approval is ultimately FENZ, don’t see any issue with ‘whoever’ gets this location approval without any requirement this needs to be the FE.
Compliance with C.5.7 in this respect will be considered met by the FENZ approval as per 4512 anyway.

Hi Ian

Absolutely agree, and no issue with the fact that compliance must be to the performance requirement of the Code. However, compliance is not necessarily directly related to 4512 (as Standards are voluntary unless following an Acceptable Solution where that particular Standard is cited).

As compliance to Code is the driver the fire report gives that direction (performance) and the alarm system designer/installer then designs the system, including the location as agreed with FENZ as part of the Standard (if that is what is being used as the design basis). I don’t see anything is C5 that makes it the responsibility of the Fire Engineer/designer to locate the panel. However I do agree that if it is to be done then someone needs to do it, but not the fire engineer - it should be the system designer.

The BCA can put a condition on that CCC can not be achieved until the alarm system has the appropriate certification to 4512, and that the panel location is agreed between the owner and FENZ.

We do similar instruction with signage on fire plans (as these are generic) and it is for the system designer to ensure compliance to the Code using whatever they like, including the AS for that clause.

C5.7a only says that information to enable firefighters to establish the general location of the fire…it says nothing about how or who is responsible. I see it as a design responsibility similar to F6 or F8 requirements where others design the systems, but I don’t see that it is the fire report authors responsibility as part of the performance document.

Hi Alan,

Yes agree also. If C/AS2 is used as a MOC then the Standard referenced as a primary document becomes mandatory otherwise an Alternative Solution is required. Even C/VM2 references NZS 4512 ‘There must be automated detection systems installed to NZS 4512.’
So it is difficult to me to imagine a design for a building that does not use this Standard (but you guys would know better this question!).
If this is correct above, then we are still left with C5.7 ‘buildings must be provided with means of giving clear information to enable firefighters to…’
I think the kind of information referred to will be contained in the control panel or index.
The location of this (assuming NZS 4512 is triggered by the MOC) can (in my view) be a reasonable request prior to the issue of the consent in order to comply with C5.7.
I dont think the Control Panel is in the same camp as a generic sign - the requirement for FENZ approval illustrates the importance of this (over a sign).
Finally, if it was left to be done on site, there is a real risk of FENZ approval not been obtained by anyone and it being installed in the wrong place.
I agree that the location of this need not be a responsibility of the Fire engineer though. Given that the approval is from FENZ anyway.
I will discuss this further with the Code Advisory Panel sub group I am on led by Saskia Holditch dealing with C/AS2 proposed amendments, at which a similar very question incidentally was raised at our last meeting briefly.
Our next meeting is on Tuesday 1st June.