The thin line between specifications and requirements

The thin line between specifications and requirements

When it comes to building design, architects excel at taking vision and turning it into a feasible and achievable construction project. With that bedded down however, the process turns to determining the Requirements of the project to ensure the building meets the NCC; a much more complex consideration which often falls to architects and engineers.

In this article we deconstruct the difference between Specifications and Requirements and then take a look at what this means for fire rated protective coatings.


Specifications vs Requirements

If you can forgive us for getting a tad dry for a second: Requirements, are a statement of a thing which a product must do, or a quality it must have. In most design settings they characterise prerequisites and necessary traits of products to be built, engineered or acquired. If a requirement is written down, it then becomes a specified requirement.
Specifications are comprised of potentially hundreds of requirements, and represent a record of a system of products which are required in order to meet the needs of the individual requirements. In other words, a specification refers to sets of recorded conditions to be fulfilled by materials, designs, products, and/or services.
A Specifications document is quantitative, quantifiable criteria that product systems are designed to meet. So as to be quantifiable, measurable, and unambiguous, specifications must contain a system of measurement, target value, and engineering units for the target value.
Furthermore, specifications should provide details of an exact problem to be solved, thus allowing a framework for efficient system design and a gauge for an estimated cost for design alternatives. Specifications also provide direction for testers to verify the capability of each technical requirement.

What codifies construction requirements in Australia?

When it comes to construction and fire safety of buildings, it is through the Building Code of Australia, specifically the National Construction Code, where you can find the technical requirements for the design and construction of buildings and other structures. The BCA is a codified set of building regulations and guidelines overseeing the planning, design, development, alterations, and maintenance of structures. These codes indicate the minimum requirements necessary to safeguard the wellbeing, safety, and welfare of building occupants. As relates to the area of expertise which we are most interested in, the NCC outlines regulations for Australia fire danger ratings to give an indication of the possible consequences of a fire, if one was to start.

Where are Australian construction specifications laid out?

Construction specifications applicable in Australian states and territories are laid out in Australian Standards. These are published documents which set out specifications and procedures designed to ensure that a material, product, method or service is fit for its purpose and consistently performs the way it was intended. Below are links to the different regulatory bodies across Australia:


The marriage of requirements and specifications in fire rated protective coatings

When it comes to choosing passive fire rating products and systems, it is important for architects, engineers, and contractors to consider the NCC-mandated requirements and the Australian Standards provided specifications to ensure the structural integrity of the building as well as the safety of the structure and the occupants. There are a few factors which need to be considered:

Fire Resistance Level or FRL

“Fire rating” as a term is extremely expansive and open to misinterpretation and misuse (although it is much better than terms such as fireproofing, fire proof and similar). Under the BCA, the right terminology is Fire Resistance Level or FRL. While fire rating has an impact in the various elements of an FRL, the two are not equivalent or interchangeable. It is therefore imperative to comprehend the various segments with regards to a FRL; how they are determined and the job they play in passive fire protection.
In accordance with the BCA, fire-resistance level (FRL) means the grading periods in minutes determined in accordance with Specification A2.3, for the following criteria— (a) structural adequacy; and (b) integrity; and (c) insulation, and expressed in that order. Technically the expression of an FRL is: Structural adequacy/integrity/insulation or SA/INT/INS.

Structural adequacy

According to the NCC 2016 Building Code of Australia – Volume One; Structural adequacy, in relation to an FRL, means the ability to maintain stability and adequate loadbearing capacity as determined by AS 1530.4.
It is the measure of a tested assembly to be load bearing, or carry a predetermined load without weakening, during fire conditions and is generally relevant for wall systems as door and frame systems are deemed to have no load bearing ability. AS 1530.4 sets out test systems and standards for the assurance of fire-resistance of components of building construction.


As specified in AS 1530.4 Integrity in relation to an FRL is the ability to resist the passage of flames and hot gases. However, it does not measure smoke leakage.


Insulation to an FRL is the ability of a material to maintain a temperature on the unexposed surface, or non-fire side, of a heat proof isolating boundary below the limits specified in AS 1530.4.

All the passing values are dictated by the number of minutes in which the material does not fail when tested as per AS 1530 Part 4 fire test criteria.
In essence, a fire resistance level expressed as 60/60/60 means that each element passed for that number of minutes. So, when you see the imperviousness to fire level communicated as 60/60/60 it implies that every component lasted for at least that number of minutes.

How Permax can help meet your projects passive fire protection requirements and specifications

In Australia Permax has been providing leadership and access to outstanding fire-rated products for over a decade. We recognise the complex nature of fire rating and have invested in our team to ensure that we have the very best people available to help you with advice. But as much as that we can provide you with a number of products which includes:

SC803 Water-based Intumescent

Made by Nullifire a world leader in thin film fire rated intumescents, SC803 offers outstanding performance. Further raising water-based intumescent innovation, Nullifire has raised the level and standards it achieves with SC803 from the predecessor S707.
Designed to be easy to apply, 803 has low VOCs and is compatible with a range of top-seals making it an ideal fire rating solution for projects with high aesthetic requirements.

SC902 Hybrid Intumescent

The world’s only ‘Hybrid’ intumescent coating system, Nullifire SC902 is unrivalled in performance when compared to other cellulosic intumescent coatings.
Nullifire SC902 is a single low VOC application product based on patented technology. It offers fire protection up to 120 minutes. Formulated as a fast track, high build system it provides optimal performance on either internal or external steel.

Bolt Caps

Comprising Polymeric resin which incorporates fire resistant pigmentation, bolt caps have been tested up to three hours for fire protection. They are designed to provide connections to bolted connections in structural steel frames in case of fire. With no adhesive, paints or other bonded materials, they slide on and give steady and consistent performance.
The Bolt caps are supplied to suit AS1111 bolt dimensions but can also be ordered to suit other bolt standards.

Ask us for help

If you are ready to write the specifications and requirements for your next project, involving us from the get-go can save you time and future cost. Our fire-engineers have the expertise to help you design schedules, optimise design and in doing so, reduce future complications which could increase costs later down the track. But of course, we can also help with projects which are already underway.
If you want help with your project, let’s have a chat.

Get in Touch

Speak to the leaders in passive fire protection

You are about to download a file from the Permax site. Please note All technical advisory notes generated by Permax are based on research papers, indicative fire tests and any other existing evidence. These documents should not be used as an official evidence as design engineers should review the information and determine the reliability of the documents.

Permax constantly update the documentations based on the new fire testing outcomes and change of standards and regulations. To ensure the documents you read are up-to-date, please contact the Permax technical team.