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DBS researcher wins grant to investigate building fire safety defects

The Victorian Building Authority is supporting Deakin research into the extent of fire safety system defects in apartment buildings.

Two years ago, Deakin Business School’s Nicole Johnston’s ground-breaking research found that fire safety systems were high on the list of most reported building defects.

Now, she has been awarded a research grant by the VIctorian Building Authority to better understand the extent of defects in passive fire safety systems in apartment buildings.  

A building’s active fire safety systems include smoke alarms and sprinklers, while passive systems include fire isolated stairways, fire-rated walls and separating floors, self-closing fire or smoke doors, door smoke seals and appropriate exit widths. 

The research aims to provide improved understanding of the nature and extent of passive fire safety defects and the rectification costs associated with remedying them.

Dr Johnston’s earlier research laid the groundwork for this project, identifying the types of defects in apartment buildings, how they impacted on buildings and their occupants and how they are managed within the residential property environment.

'From my previous research, I found that defects in the fire protection systems were the second most common type of defect in residential construction' Dr Johnston said.

'Of note was the finding that due to the concealment of some passive fire elements from view, such as the inclusion of appropriate fire separation barriers, it is highly likely that passive fire defects were under-reported in the research.'

The research for the VBA will also review the regulatory system to identify any regulatory gaps and then recommend reforms and solutions to mitigate these types of defects, with the information to be provided to policy makers and government for consideration.

The VBA’s CEO Sue Eddy said improving the installation of passive fire safety systems in buildings is important to the regulator.

'Dr Nicole Johnston has strong credentials in her field, we are excited to be supporting Deakin University with this research.'

This is the first successful research grant application funded by the VBA out of a total of 56 submissions from across Australia.

The VBA’s research program helps the authority better understand regulatory issues and consumer needs, and how regulations can be shaped to improve public safety.

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