Behaviour change to reduce improper service penetration to avoid fire spread

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) identified frequently occuring service penetration through their proactive inspections and statewide cladding audits. A fire-rated wall should contain the fire in a restricted area, to avoid spread in the event of a fire. The Building Code of Australia sets the regulations and guidelines to reduce the impact of service penetrations such as cabling, gas or plumbing.

The improper sealing of a service penetration can result in the leakage of fire and smoke, this is what we call an ‘improper service penetration’. It represents a major risk, not only to the building occupants, but also to the structure itself by creating a weak point.

To encourage changes in behaviour that lead to higher rates of proper penetrations of fire rated walls, we worked with the VBA to identify the drivers and barriers to these behaviours.

The challenge:
Identify behaviours that lead to improper service penetration
Victorian Building Authority (VBA)

What did we do?

In May 2020, we organised stakeholder dialogues to bring together 24 representatives from Victoria’s construction industry to discuss… 

Across October and November 2020, we interviewed 15 construction practitioners who were involved in either supervision, reporting on penetrations, or performing actual penetration of fire rated and smoke-proof walls to understand drivers of behaviour among practitioners and people working directly on sites

Finally, we conducted a literature review where we found a number of potential interventions that could increase the likelihood of compliance and encourage desirable behaviours.

With this approach we gained a better understanding of the behaviours that drive improper service penetration. 

What did we find?

We identified three key themes:

  • The design and construct of the building have an impact on behaviour
  • Ambiguous regulation and guidelines may exist
  • Knowledge gaps may drive behaviour

From discussions with key stakeholders we developed behaviour change tools, such as visual communications materials, to influence positive on-site behaviours by practitioners and tradespeople.

What’s next?

The risk of fire spread through improper service penetration is a major concern as it risks the safety of building residents. 

From these insights, we worked in conjunction with The Shannon Company and BVA to develop a communication campaign to increase awareness of the consequences of poor service penetration practices and to increase responsibility when carrying out service penetrations.

Download the research summary

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