A Millennial Learns About: BWoFs
What is a BWoF?
No, seriously, what is it?? Because you know, I’m not really sure myself.
Before I started working at Building and Fire Services I hadn’t heard the term ‘BWoF’ before, but since my first day here I’ve heard it said literally 5+ times a day, which at the time of writing this, is over 300 times (I’m new here)(I’m also bad at maths)(it’s probably more like 1,000)(I also tend to exaggerate). You’d think by now I would be an expert.
What I have learned about BWoFs so far over the past couple of months working at Building and Fire Services without being formally told about them:
- It’s a handy acronym for ‘Building Warrant of Fitness’
- I guess, like a vehicle WoF, it’s needed if you want to legally be able to use your car/building
- They’re done annually (I think)
- Council approves them (I think)
- A quick google search leads me to web pages saying things like:
- “A BWoF is confirmation that the building’s specified systems have been inspected and maintained as required in the building’s compliance schedule.”
- … what are specified systems? Or a compliance schedule? How would you go about getting one?
- And now I’m left with more questions than I originally had. Ahhhh!
To be fair, I’m not a business owner, and I don’t exactly have any current plans to become a business owner, so I haven’t had much reason to learn about these ‘BWoF’ things. But then I thought about all the people who know as little about them as me but actually do want to become business owners.
I work with extremely knowledgeable and experienced BWoF issuers/inspectors/compilers, so I’m in the perfect position to study them from the perspective of someone who wouldn’t know where to even start.
I’m going to take one for the team and help the both of us, me and you, the reader, learn what exactly a BWoF is. I’ll be interviewing industry professionals (Mike, Managing Director of Building and Fire Services) and visiting uncharted territories (the Whangarei Central Library and Forum North, both very public places) to discover the whats what and whos who, also the how’s how, why’s why and when’s when, of BWoFs.
I’m back, and I now have a wealth of knowledge.
Who needs a BWoF?
According to Mike, the question he gets asked the most is “why does my building need a BWoF when someone else’s doesn’t?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else.”
And it’s that there are three main reasons that determine whether your building needs a Building Warrant of Fitness.
A lot of older buildings don’t need BWoFs because when they were built, they weren’t fitted out with the things that new buildings are, new buildings that require BWoFs.
What the building is going to be used for is also a contributing factor. A building that’s used as a childcare centre will have a lot more safety requirements than say, a warehouse that is used by one single dude.
This is the more technical part. A specified system is something that helps keep your building and the people in it safe and healthy. Things such as; sprinklers, lifts, emergency warning systems, ventilation systems (I totally know what I’m talking about). You can find a list of them here.
What is a BWoF?
Now I can answer this with a bit of confidence. A Building Warrant of Fitness proves that a building has safety systems in place that are working. If a building doesn’t have a BWoF it doesn’t mean it’s not safe, it just means that there isn’t anything proving it’s safe, ya know.
How do you get a BWoF?
There is a number of people you can talk to about this process! Every situation is different. You can talk to someone who is IQP registered, they are people who can issue BWoFs (here at Building and Fire Services we are IQP registered, just sayin’). You can talk to engineers who write fire reports. Your real estate agent, lawyer or banker should be able to give you advice too.
This handy diagram shows the steps you take and the people you talk to who can give you advice during the process of buying or renting a property.
Why do you need a BWoF?
If you don’t have a BWoF and you need one, your business could be shut down until you get one. It’s as simple as that, to be honest.
When do I need to get a BWoF?
The local council (or whoever is responsible for your area) will issue a Compliance Schedule. This covers the first year, but from then on, you’ll need to get a new BWoF annually.
That’s Cool, But What Does All That Mean?
To put these points I learnt into an example (which Mike used, I’m not just making this up), maybe there’s a two-storey office building built in 1974 with stairs and a low-key air conditioner. It doesn’t have sprinklers, alarms, or emergency lights. It probably should have these things, but when it was going through the design and approval stage, they weren’t necessary. If they were going to do some major renovations then the BWoF issue might be revisited, but for now, it’s ok how it is. There aren’t any specified systems in this building, so there’s nothing that needs testing/checking annually, therefore a BWoF isn’t needed.
Right next door to this we have a similar looking building, but it was built in 2005, where building requirements were a bit more in-depth. It’s also a two-storey office building with stairs, but instead of a simple lil air con, it has an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system. It also has a fire alarm. To make sure that these are working properly and safely, they need to be tested.
That’s where a Building Warrant of Fitness comes in! A technician will come in and do the testing annually, and if everything is in working order, a BWoF will be issued. If something’s not quite up to standard, it will need to be fixed before you can get your BWoF.
A New Perspective
I learnt a lot during this investigation, and I now have a new-found respect for business owners. It’s no small responsibility, and there is so much behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a business that a lot of customers don’t realise! I may not ever need to know what a BWoF is again, but if you’re looking at starting a business, I hope this helped you! If you want further advice or just to know more, then here’s a handy link to our contact page.