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9b Compliance Triggers Additional $175,000.00 For Education Fit Out.

In Australia, education and training facilities are required to operate in premises that meet more strict ‘classification of use’ criteria than standard commercial facilities. This special criteria is outlined in a section of the National Construction Code (NCC) known as ‘Class 9b’. 


Understanding 9b Compliance requirements


Class 9b allows for a higher volume of occupants per square metre than the average commercial tenancy (which generally falls under Class 5), as well as a higher number of ‘visitors’ who are unfamiliar with the layout of the premises. 


These stringent requirements primarily relate to exit/emergency infrastructure, lighting, fire detection and suppression services and egress from the premises. The criteria are geared towards keeping a high number of occupants and visitors safe whilst on the premises, and efficiently and safely evacuating them in the event of an emergency. Another key area is accessibility and safety of persons with mobility difficulties or vision impairment.


It is important for education providers, who are looking to renovate or move premises, to become familiar with the basic requirements of 9b, in order to avoid major additional costs to their fitout project.


As an example, not long ago a client of ours found what he believed to be the prefect new campus for his ELICOS College. It was a 3 story building with a floor plate of approx. 500m2 per floor, open car park underneath for approx. 15 cars, next to a major train station and bus stops, plenty of room out the front and he could lease the whole building so there would be no problems with other tenants! Perfect.


Are you DDA compliant?


However, there were at least 7 major BCA non-compliance issues that would be triggered as soon as he went for the change of use to 9b, with the biggest one being the access requirements that would easily add an extra $175K (+ GST) to the project cost. This was because there were two sets of stairs leading into the main entry and there was no lift in the building. 


So why is this a problem?


One of the main reasons is a piece of legislation that was introduced in 1992 called the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). This Act provides persons with disabilities who feel discriminated against a legal pathway to sue the ‘offending’ persons or organisations. 


So why is this so important now? Well, there was a major change in the BCA in 2011 know as the Access To Premises Standard which basically put in place situations where it is mandatory to upgrade the access into commercial buildings to make it easier for people with mobility or vision impairments to access these premises. Because of this, it is not uncommon these days to see extended ramps, platform chair lifts and disabled lifts throughout many new and existing commercial buildings.


Other DDA requirements


There are also two levels of impact that most organisations are not aware off. The first is if you are simply a tenant in a multi-tenanted building. Your new fit out must comply with all the correct opening sizes and circulation space to accommodate someone in a wheel chair as well as the correct ‘decals’ on full height glazing, 30% colour contrast for doors and statutory signage including braille etc for the vision impaired. There is also a requirement to have a disabled toilet on the floor, particularly if there are toilet facilities provided on the floor for persons without disabilities. A disabled toilet on the ground floor or any other floor no longer meets the code so with a change of use; you must have a disabled toilet available on the floor, either in the common area or in your tenancy. This is something that can be good to know before signing your lease as even though it is your change of use that triggers this, it is of benefit to the building owner and could be negotiated as part of the lease to reduce the impact on your fit out budget.


Access to Premises requirements


The second level is when you are either the owner of the tenancy or building and you are the applicant for the change of use OR you are the sole tenant of the property. This triggers what the ‘Access to Premises Standard’ mentioned above, which can have a massive impact on the cost of providing a compliant fit out.


The standard requires not only your fit out to comply with the current BCA and Australia Standards, but also the path of travel from the entry of the building to your tenancy. This includes access from the street, through the front entry doors, up the lift to your floor if on a high-rise building and into your tenancy. So if there are stairs from the street into the building and if there are no lifts, these must be addressed and as you can imagine, this can be a very expensive undertaking. 


It is not always possible for existing buildings to fully comply with the current Code or Australian Standards. In this case it is a good idea to engage a suitably qualified professional or Access Consultant who may be able to develop ‘alternative solutions’ that will provide the same or similar outcome as the intent of the Code but with an alternative approach. It is very difficult to get around disabled access requirements particular when triggered by the ‘Access to Premises Standards’ but an access consultant can provide some alternative options.


The whole idea behind the new BCA regulations is to ensure base building infrastructure (i.e. the landlord or building owner’s responsibility) is upgraded to meet the new requirements going forward. As mentioned before, having these fixtures in place can be advantageous to the building owner in the long term. Therefore it can be of significant advantage to be aware of these requirements during the lease negotiation stage to help minimise your direct fit out cost.


We can help!


The compliance requirements of the BCA and Australia Standards can be quite complex. We have endeavored above to provide a simple outline of these in relation to disability requirements and change of use. However, this is only one compliance item that can be triggered with 9b so we would always suggest speaking with a person/organisation that has experience in this area to discuss your specific situation to make sure to you are able to achieve your outcome as easily and cost effectively as possible.


Get involved…


Education Interiors is once again thrilled to be involved in English Australia National Conference and as part of this year’s event, we will be hosting a 9b compliance workshop using real case studies from conference delegates! 


Submit your contact details, your organization and a brief description of your current 9b compliance issues to ei@educationinteriors.com.au and we will get in contact to discuss the details of your case further. We will then be choosing a few key case studies to work through as part of the education interiors workshop, providing a range of solutions to real 9b compliance issues.


Want to know more now?


Follow the link below to download our guide: ‘7 Things to Know Before Leasing or Renovating a Training Facility’

http://www.educationinteriors.com.au 

 


Want to know even more?

If you have a specific question or would like to discuss your organisation’s relocation or refurbishment needs now, contact us at our office on (02) 9906 6523 or by email at ei@educationinteriors.com.au

 

 

 












 
 
 














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