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'A really big hole for how safe these building are': Engineers accuse MBIE of scrapping fire safety changes

Newshub logo Newshub 29/10/2020 Rosie Gordon
a close up of a fire place sitting in a dark room: Watch: Building engineers concerned by fire risk in mid-rise buildings, accuse MBIE of scrapping safety changes. © Image - Reuters; Video - Newshub. Watch: Building engineers concerned by fire risk in mid-rise buildings, accuse MBIE of scrapping safety changes.


Building engineers are concerned fire risk for mid-rise buildings isn't being properly tested.

They're accusing the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) of scrapping proposed safety changes to improve testing for all materials in flammable cladding. 

But MBIE denies the proposal is up in smokes. 

Engineers at Oculus lit a match to show just how flammable timber framing can be. They fear blazes such as these are what could happen without full-scale fire testing.

MBIE is releasing changes to cladding testing next month, but that won't include mid-rise buildings. It prioritised the review after the Grenfell Tower fire in London, which killed 72 people.

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It sought submissions on changes to fire testing for cladding and framing in all buildings over 10 metres-tall, but next month's changes will only apply to buildings over 25 metres.

"We think that leaves a really big hole for how safe these buildings are," said Shawn McIsaac, senior building enclosure engineer at Oculus.

"The feedback we got was that we need to do some more thinking about the science behind it."

MBIE insists the delay won't put those in mid-rise buildings at risk, telling Newshub it now has a robust testing regime in place.

Cladding supplier Jan Gouws is also happy with current testing but says manufacturers will adapt to any future changes.

"New standards? That's not bad news for any manufacturer," he said.

Though improved standards for mid-rise buildings will have to wait. 

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