SFPE Discussions

Occupational Registration

I have read the proposed SFPE response to the current MBIE Consultation.

I don’t think that the proposed response adequately captures the importance of this topic to our profession and I don’t think that the response advocates sufficiently for our profession.

I believe that occupational registration is vital but if it only applies to current Engineers and is just a re-brand of CPEng then it will not achieve any meaningful change.

What seems to be missing from the Consultation and the SFPE response is the vitally important question of how or what will force occupational registration. If it is purely voluntary then it will serve no purpose.

The impetus must come from Legislation. The Building Act or Regulations must enforce a requirement for compulsory occupational registration.

The following is the gist of my submission to MBIE.
Please feel free to use any or all of it in your own submissions.

For Fire Engineering:

Registration / Licensing must be a requirement for any person doing fire engineering design work (including Acceptable Solutions, Verification Methods and Alternative Solutions) for all buildings that are

IL4 (all buildings),

IL3 (all buildings),

IL2 where the building:

  • contains any sleeping Use Group (SC, SD, SA, SR). [SH already covered by RBW/LBP regime],

  • contains Crowd activities which are CL, CO or CM,

  • has a Use Group WH or WF,

  • contains Use Group WL and is higher than 4 levels (with a single stair) or over 9 levels in all other cases.

The Building Act will require amendment to force this issue.

This regime will need to capture all practitioners who are not already LBP or CPEng as well as recertifying the people who are already LBP/ CPEng.

The Registration / Licensing regime should also be graduated so that there are certain niches and levels of competence being assessed for people who focus their work in different areas. For example a practitioner who only normally works with 2 level rest homes would not necessarily be interested in, nor potentially capable of, dealing with a 20 level multi-use sleeping and crowd use building.

The Registration / Licensing regime will need to set relevant training, experience and qualification requirements for the various levels.

The registration/ Licensing regime will also (as with LBP/CPEng) need to set appropriate disciplinary processes and penalties for dealing with deviations.

It is proposed that the implementation of the system should be:

  • 6 months for IL4 (all buildings),

  • 12 months for IL3 (all buildings),

  • 6 months for IL2 where the building contains any sleeping Use Group (SC, SD, SA, SR).

  • 6 months for IL2 where the building contains Crowd activities which are CL, CO or CM,

  • 24 months for IL2 where the building contains has a Use Group WH or WF,

  • 24 months for IL2 where the building contains Use Group WL and is higher than 4 levels (with a single stair) or over 9 levels in all other cases.

Interesting reading Peter.

Is there any reason you have compartmentalised the framework applying the uses from Schedule 2 of the Building Specified Systems Change the Use and Earthquakeprone Regulations 2005, which are only applicable for those regulations as per r6(1), instead of the classified uses as per the Building Regulations 1992?

Where does that leave IA and ID that cover boilers, workshops, carpark buildings, etc?

What I gathered from the discussions at Engineering NZ is that they have already made up their minds to agree with MBIE. Other discussions I have heard about include defining all residential work as safety critical, which would shut out LBP from residential.

I don’t think any of this is necessary, useful or would save any lives. Adding another layer of paperwork only adds more wasted time and money for a useless scheme. The scheme is just added on top of the failed LBP registration. LBP was never enforced in any meaningful way, and is only an obstruction to getting houses built.

MBIE doesn’t enforce LBP, Section 200 complaints, or Codemark. I don’t see that any any further responsibilities to their Ministry would change anything, and would only serve to further dilute their attention.

Given that this all appears to be in response to the CTV building collapse the proper place for this would be the Crimes Act. Given that there would be no meaningful enforcement by MBIE then legal action after the fact is the only time the Government will bother doing anything.

Thanks John

I didn’t think that Occupational Registration was essential for every building type/use. I elected to use Schedule 2 of the Building Specified Systems Change the Use and Earthquakeprone Regulations 2005 as my basis for identifying which buildings I thought warranted having a Registered Engineer doing the work. I didn’t feel that those IA, ID Uses warranted inclusion.
However you may feel that there is justification to also include those or to potentially use another form of sorting to select the buildings.

As I have said in the submission none of this will be worth the paper it is written on unless the key legislation changes are made to the Building Act / Regulations to force Occupational Registration.

Peter, what you suggest is that every Acceptable Solution project needs a licensed engineer. This alone would mean the time frame you suggest is not feasible. There are around ~60 chartered fire engineers in NZ as I recall and several time that of fire designers (say 200-300) doing AS fire reports, so there would need to be a big increase in chartered/ licensed engineers required.

It would also require changes to the Building Act, as currently there are no restrictions on who can do the work and an Acceptable Solution is deemed to comply. This will not be a quick exercise.

it would make fire different from other disciplines, such as structural engineers where a standard house is done to NZS3604 by the architect with no specific structural engineering design required.

One of the differences in NZ and the rest of the world is that in NZ “fire engineers” do fire compliance checking against the AS via fire report. In the rest of the world, the “deemed to comply” designs are done by architects as part of the building design, in the same manner as all the other building code clauses. The NZ C/AS documents are far more complex and wide ranging than other jurisdiction such as Australia. For example, adding smoke detectors to increase travel distance allowances isn’t (or wasn’t when I last did any work there a while back) a thing in Australia. It was a nice little earner justifying a small increase in travel distance by adding smoke detectors to a building tha twoudl fly in in NZ.

Maybe that is the answer - limit the AS in scope and complexity. This again is not a simple exercise, nor would it be popular as it would add cost and delays to projects by needing a fire engineer for what is now cookbook work.

Defining these limits however is difficult. Fire engineering design complexity doesn’t scale linearly with building height or occupancy. A sprinklered office building or apartment block of say 10 stories with identical floors can be simpler than a 4 storey non sprinklered one with odd features as there are no spandrel/ apron or lower roof issues. Even unit titles increase design complexity in otherwise identical buildings, and then there are existing buildings which are ~90% of consents. We all know how difficult existing buildings and their constraints can be sometimes.
Importance level by itself is a rough tool as an IL3 building can be a 1 or 2 level school building of 250 people, probably with sprinklers, with several escape routes of good width for day to day movement. It would also be a group of single level shops with an occupancy of more than 300, or an A&E or radiology type healthcare facility with more than 50 people. Anything IL4+ is an important building so perhaps should be by a licensed engineer as of right.

My belief is that licensed engineers should be required for anything with calculations such as VM / alternative solutions with calculations or fire engineering justifications, fire spread calcs, burnout calcs, etc. Fire designers can do Acceptable Solutions – but the scope of these needs to be set by MBIE at the level that reflects an acceptable level of complexity and risk, in the same manner as NZS3604 is limited to low level buildings of low / ordinary importance. At present this level may be to high, but changing this will not be straightforward or trouble free.
The solution needs to be simple to define and administer to keep costs reasonable and stop people gaming the system to bend the rules.

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Comments noted Geoff.
Whatever happens the Building Act/ Code/ Regulations will need to make Occupational Registration compulsory for Fire Engineers for whatever level of complexity is decided on. If there is no requirement coming down from the Act then all these proposed changes around CPEng would be a moot point of little value