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ABCB ‘Direction Report on Egress for All Occupants’ released in 2013 reported that the concept of waiting in a ‘safe’ place was not well received, it was not seen as being equitable and the effectiveness of a place of refuge was challenged. The preference would be to use a passenger lift to return to an entry level. Subsequently, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre Twin Towers in 2001 were a testament to these concerns when those waiting in designated places of refuge all perished while firefighters ascending the stairs took over one hour to reach the 30th floor. The use of a ‘safe’ refuge area is a concept that has always received mixed support. From an equity perspective, why should someone have to wait to be evacuated, while others can reach safety? Who deemed it to be ‘safe’? Would they feel safe waiting for assistance? And what is an acceptable time to wait? A recent case study in Italy found that refuge areas “are designed ineffectively because of the complexity of many contemporary buildings and the low levels of regulatory information on how to properly design them in accordance with people’s expectations.” The research highlights that for a refuge area to be effective there needs to be knowledge, understanding and a willingness to use a refuge area. The BCA, now part of the National Construction Code (NCC,) has been amended and updated many times since BCA96 and we continue to see many references throughout the BCA Performance Requirements mandating an overarching requirement to consider “the number, mobility and other characteristics of the occupants” without sufficient prescriptive ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions to support this. Fortunately, the BCA was amended in 2013 to add a new Performance Requirement, DP7, to permit the use of lifts during an emergency and released guidance in the form of a non-mandatory Handbook. This approach supports the ‘everybody-out’ approach with full or staged evacuation. Practitioners can now use the Handbook to develop performance-based design solutions to use lifts for evacuation. Turning back to 9/11, lifts were proven to be successful where 27% of people who escaped used a lift for part of their route. We now know that buildings are so tall that it is no longer reasonable to expect occupants to use an exit stair as their only October / November 2018

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Profile for ACAA

Access Insight - November 2018  

Access Insight - November 2018