Education News

Campaign to improve smoke and fire wall penetrations

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is launching a campaign to improve service penetrations in fire-rated and smoke-proof walls. The campaign will leverage the insights from extensive research work done on the issue with industry input.

During 2020 and 2021, the VBA partnered with BehaviourWorks Australia to undertake research to understand how improper service penetration of fire and smoke walls can be reduced through behavioural insights. Industry stakeholders provided perspectives into the drivers and barriers to behaviour on this issue. These perspectives have been incorporated into three key research insights.

1. The design and construct model has implications for behaviour

On major projects, the process of coming to a site and just “doing your bit” was described as something that decreased professional identity. It was also felt that this contributed to a diffusion of responsibility among some practitioners.

2. Ambiguous regulation and guidelines may exist 

A need was identified for an easier and clearer translation of rules relating to fire and smoke wall penetrations. This would benefit practitioners across industry who either are not across current regulations, or have very different interpretations of the rules, including building and plumbing practitioners, building surveyors and building managers/management.

3. Knowledge gaps may drive behaviour

Educational needs about service penetrations were identified as an issue across industry professions. Correct modelling of the “right” behaviour was viewed as important to dispel assumptions or practice that are believed to be “correct” but are potentially dangerous (i.e., improper penetrations).

To help address insights 2 and 3, the VBA has developed a Practice Note, which provides guidance on selection and installation of service penetrations in fire-rated and smoke-proof walls.

The VBA, BehaviourWorks Australia and The Shannon Company also collaborated with the stakeholders and research participants to develop visual communications materials designed to influence positive onsite behaviour by practitioners and tradespeople. This seeks to address insights 1, 2 and 3.

The VBA will soon launch a communications campaign to increase awareness of the consequences of poor service penetrations, and increase individual practitioner responsibility for compliance during the performance of service penetrations.

More information on the results of the research project is available at the VBA website.

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