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Navigating Fire Safety: Addressing Additional Compliance Challenges

We’ve tackled 8 compliance issues, but there’s still one more installment to complete our series. In our previous blogs, we explored the primary compliance hurdles encountered by our Design Team in assessing fire cores.

Blog 1: Here are the top four compliance issues we identify in fire stairs, read here.
Blog 2: Exploring four more compliance hurdles in stair and handrail design, read here.

Now, in this final part, we’re uncovering another four prevalent issues surrounding fire cores, stairs, and handrails to wrap up our articles on common compliance concerns we find in fire stairs.

9. Head Height Clearance.

According to the National Construction Code (NCC) Section D2D7, the minimum unobstructed height from line or stair nosing to ceiling should be no less than 2000mm (2050mm with tolerance), or 1980mm at doorways.

Refer to the below excerpt.

NCC D2D7 [2019: D1.6(a)]
Height of exits, paths of travel to exits and doorways
In a required exit or path of travel to an exit the unobstructed height throughout must be less than 2m, except the unobstructed height of any doorway may be reduced to not less than 1980mm.

We often see stairs being designed at the absolute minimum of 2000mm. This becomes a compliance issue onsite when the stair flights are set out slightly out of line with the architectural set outs and this results in the 2000mm head clearance being immediately compromised.

A solution to this is to design your stairs with a minimum clearance of 2050mm, or even more if possible. This additional buffer not only ensures compliance but also mitigates potential complications during construction. By proactively addressing head height clearance, you avoid the headaches of non-compliance and safeguard your project from unnecessary expenses and delays.

10. Riser Quantity.

The NCC 2022, Section D3D14 Clause 1(a) states that a stairway should have no more than 18 risers and no less than 2.

See below excerpt.

NSW D3D14(1)
(1) A stairway must have__
(a) not more than 18 and not less than 2 risers in each flight;

Many projects feature split landings, landings with 1 riser, and stair flights with more than 18 risers, which is non-compliant for a fire stair.

To avoid costly delays and redesigns, ensure your stairs adhere to this rule. Aim for a minimum of 2 risers and maximum of 18 risers, if you need more than 18 risers, consider adding a landing to ensure your fire stairs are compliant.

11. Width Between Flights.

The AS1428.1-2009 Clause 12(h) mandates a clearance of at least 50mm between a handrail and any adjacent wall or obstruction, extending no less than 600mm above the top of the handrail.

See below excerpts from AS1428.1-2009 Clause 12(h) and Figure 29(in part).

(h) The clearance between a handrail and an adjacent wall surface or other obstruction shall be not less than 50mm. This clearance shall extend above the top of the handrail by not less than 600mm.

In some cases, the space between flights in a circulation stair isn’t sufficient to meet this requirement, especially when certifiers demand a double knuckle clearance where handrails converge at a landing. For instance, a handrail with a 48.3mm diameter requires a 5 x 50mm knuckle clearance, totaling 200mm (rounded).

Refer to the detail below.

To avoid complications, ensure your stair and handrail designs accommodate these specifications. Allocate enough width in the stair shaft/core for a full knuckle clearance and clear width, whilst also factoring in the handrail diameter. This proactive approach prevents costly discussions, performance issues, and potential redesigns, saving both time and money on-site.

12. Landing Length.

According to NCC 2022, Section D3D15 (a) (ii), the minimum landing length required is 750mm.

See below excerpt from NCC 2022, Section D3D15 a) (ii).

D3D15 Landings [2019: D2.14]
In a stairway___
(a) landings having a maximum gradient of 1:50 may be used in any building to limit the number of risers in each flight and each landing must___
(i) be not less than 750mm long, and where this involves a change in direction, the length is measured 500mm from the inside edge of the landing;

In some instances, stairs are designed with landings shorter than 750mm due to there not being enough length in the stair core/shaft, resulting in non-compliance.

To preempt costly setbacks, always prioritise sufficient landing length. Aim for a minimum of 750mm, or more if possible, to accommodate tolerance. This will help to minimise the need for expensive discussions, performance solutions, and potential stair redesigns, ultimately saving time and money on-site.

Tools to help you.

Navigating the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and the National Construction Code (NCC) can be challenging due to their complexity, vague language, and evolving standards. To simplify this process for you, we’ve invested in specialised design tools tailored for stairs and railings.

Fast Tread® Handrail & Stair Guidelines.

Our comprehensive compliance guidelines are designed to help you identify potential issues early on, ensuring adherence to BCA/NCC and Australian Standards.

Download your copy here.

Fast Tread® BIM Content.

We understand the challenges of modelling and documenting in Autodesk Revit, so we have invested in developing a comprehensive suite of highly parametric Revit Content specifically for Fast Tread® stairs and handrails.

Our Revit Content is designed to streamline the modelling and documentation process, significantly reducing the time and effort required. But it doesn’t stop there. Our Fast Tread® Revit Content goes beyond mere convenience. It incorporates embedded design guidelines that help interpret and apply Australian Standards and the NCC to railings and stairs.

Download your copy here.

Compliance Mark-up by the FTI Design Team.

Our Design Team conducts a thorough compliance review of Architectural drawings, flagging any actual or potential compliance issues related to stairs and handrails.

For more information on the compliance of FTI products call the FTI Design Team on 1300 751 701 or email design@ftigroup.com.au.

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You can trust Fast Tread®
to be compliant with:

• AS/NZS1657:2018
for fixed platforms, walkways, stairways, and ladders
• AS/NZS1428.1:2009
for design for access and mobility
• AS/NZS1170.1:2002
for structural design actions
• AS/NZS3990:1993
for mechanical equipment
• AS/NZS4100:1998
for steel structures
• AS/NZS4991:2004
for lifting devices
• AS/NZS1554.1:2011
for structural steel welding
• AS/NZS4761:2001
for steel reinforcing materials

Compliance assured for your peace of mind. For more information, contact our design team.