Unfortunately, in New Zealand, Passive Fire Protection is still not a licensed profession nor a well-established trade and anyone can open a company and proclaim themselves to be a passive fire installer without any qualification or experience. Therefore, a common question we get from clients is "Do you have a Passive Fire Protection Installation company to recommend?".
Although we have dealt with many different installation companies, each type of job may require a different type of professional company or approach. There are, for example, timeframe and budget requirements that may not be met for certain companies but will fit perfectly for others. Also, not all passive fire installation companies are as qualified as the client would expect them to be.
For example, for a new multilevel apartment/hotel building, a large amount of labour is likely to be required, but as each unit will be a repetition of the previous one, a team containing inexperienced but trainable installers with a good team leader could be sufficient for the project. Smaller companies usually meet this requirement, but depending on the timeframe to complete the work, multiple teams may be required, and the smaller companies may not be capable of providing this. Therefore, a larger passive fire company may seem a more suitable option.
However, the larger the company, the more of these demanding projects they will have and the more internal procedures it is likely to have, and priority may not be given to small projects with a very short timeframe. For these cases, the timeframe between inspection, proposing a solution, price, and installation may be reduced when choosing smaller companies.
Another case where a smaller team may be suitable is the installation of passive fire protection systems in penetrations identified during a BWof inspection. However, installing compliant passive fire systems in existing buildings is not always possible, and an as-near-as-reasonably practicable (ANARP) approach may be required. Although it looks like a smaller job, an ANARP approach usually requires a more specialized passive fire protection installer who understands the system that is to be installed and what is expected to be achieved. Often, this type of project also requires additional building work to be performed, which may also involve other trades. Not all small companies may achieve this requirement. And even if they do, they may not have the capacity to achieve your required timeframe, given the limited number of staff.
Also, be careful! The biggest mistake someone can make is hiring the cheapest option. Passive Fire Protection can vary so much that you may bring 5 different companies to your building, and you will receive 5 very different types of quotation, varying not only in price but also in solutions and "surprises" along the way! It is common to find companies providing:
a price list per penetration without stipulating the quantities or
stipulating a limited and unrealistic number of penetrations (usually less than reality) and claiming the extra penetrations in variations and/or
Provide the price per side of the penetration (not for the system), which will usually result in double the price for walls and/or
Provide prices with generic solutions that may not be applied on-site, resulting in variations for the new (and more expensive) option.
In summary, selecting the best passive fire installer may be challenging and usually on a case-by-case basis. One thing that shouldn't change, though, is the level of quality service and deliverables that you should expect, regardless of the size of the job. While achieving compliance is a must, proper documentation must not be neglected.
So, what do you look for when selecting a Passive Fire Protection Installer?
Having a reference is always good, but when looking for installation companies, consider the following aspects:
Experience: How long has this company/person worked in Passive Fire Protection?
It is our opinion for someone who has never worked in Passive Fire Protection, but has good technical knowledge, it would take at least 1 year working full time to start understanding and being capable of dealing with the technical questions.
Recommendation: Look for someone with at least 3 years of proven experience.
Qualification: Is that person Qualified?
In New Zealand, there are only 2 qualifications dedicated to Passive Fire. The highest level of Qualification in Passive Fire Protection is a Level 4 Certificate in Passive Fire Systems.
Recommendation: Look for someone with at least a Level 3 qualification in Passive Fire Installation.
Quotation: Are you getting what you quoted for?
Make sure you're comparing apples to apples and that the price given is actually for the correct solution you need.
Recommendation: Prepare a Passive Fire schedule of work, or have it prepared by an independent consultant, and send that schedule of penetrations to the installation companies so they all can work on the same basis.
Industry participation: Is that person/company part of the Fire Protection Association New Zealand (FPANZ)?
Being a member of the association doesn't ensure the company's level of service, but to become a member, the company must meet certain requirements, such as insurance, obtain referee letters from other peers in the industry, go through a round of interviews and must be a signatory of a code of conduct.
Recommendation: Check the list of members on FPANZ website.
Capability: Is that person/company capable of meeting your needs?
As explained above, different projects will have different requirements and not all companies are capable of meeting them.
Recommendation: Plan and understand your needs.
Producer Statements: Can that installer provide you with a Producer Statement (PS3)?
A Producer statement construction (PS3) is issued by the contractor who has performed the building work as confirmation that the building work is in accordance with the consented plans and the NZBC. PS3s are usually requested by Councils as documentation to support the installation. PS3s are usually accompanied by the Passive Fire Penetration Schedule and documentation.
Some councils, such as Auckland Council, may require that the producer statement author is registered with them. A list of the registered producer statements authors can be found here.
Recommendation: Always get PS3s for your projects from registered producer statement authors for at least clause C3 of the building code
Documentation: Is that company capable of providing the correct documentation? Do they have an electronic system?
The most common and dangerous mistake inexperienced installers can make in Passive Fire Protection is not properly documenting the work done. As a result, you're at risk of having to rip walls and ceilings apart during an inspection at the end of the project to demonstrate your passive fire was correctly and actually completed. The best passive fire protection installation companies use an electronic recording system to achieve this requirement.
Recommendation: Request for a sample of the documentation to be provided at the end of the project.
What time of documentation should a Passive Fire Protection Installer provide?
At the end of a project, a Passive Fire minimum requirement for PFP documentation that we would expect to see is:
A Producer Statement (PS3) for the relevant clauses of the building code, including at least clause C3.
Copy of the relevant testing documentation used in the project
Passive Fire Penetration Schedule for each individual penetration, including information on all the important aspects of passive fire protection, such as substrate, penetrating elements, FRR, solutions adopted, etc.
As attachments, we would expect at least:
Photos before, during and after each installation
Mark Up drawing containing the location of each penetration
If possible, use specific solution drawings (i.e. Ryanfire or Fire Stop Centre drawings) for each item.
Manufacturer Documentation for compliance
We usually suggest that we receive a sample of the documentation that will be provided before the work commence, and then we can confirm what’s okay and missing.
Nelligan Consulting Engineers has an in-house passive fire consultant team with expertise and knowledge to assist you with your project at various stages to ensure the passive fire installation is appropriately specified, compliant, cost-effective, and with minimal delays.