Member Alert -Charging Electric Vehicles in Buildings - Draft Policy

The Board of AIBS met on 15 December 2022 and determined to establish a Policy position to support AIBS advocacy activities related to the installation of charging equipment within buildings for the purpose of charging electric vehicles. The decision was taken in response to growing concerns about the risks associated with this activity. 

The Board noted that in addition to charging points forming part of proposed buildings, there are large numbers of charging points being installed in existing buildings, and that this work is largely occurring without an approval from a building surveyor or other authority and is only controlled by the electrical contractor’s observance of the wiring rules.

The kinds of batteries used in electric vehicles are generally stable and safe, however there have been instances where these have been involved in fires. A fire in a vehicle battery is described as a thermal runaway event and is often associated with the release of toxic gasses sometimes explosively. The chemical reaction involved is self sustaining so that smothering and heat removal methods of fire fighting are rendered largely ineffectual. Whilst there is still very little information available about the risks, it is clear that the situation is emerging more quickly than the building regulators in Australia are moving to deal with it.

The policy is simple. It calls for regulation to be established to require that the installation of an electric vehicle charging point in an existing building is an activity that requires an approval. It also calls for the establishment of technical provisions that would appropriately mitigate risks arising from this activity within a building. The Policy does not deal with risk arising from parking of electric vehicles in buildings, nor with any issues to do with batteries that have been damaged in vehicle accidents or other defects which have been associated with thermal runaway events while vehicles have been parked. The Policy is also deliberately not intended to provide technical solutions to these issues. It is a starting point to support advocacy activities.

Meanwhile, members who are asked to consider new building proposals inclusive of electric vehicle charging points are urged to ensure that they have considered the relevance of NCC BCA Clauses E1.10 and E2.3 to the situation. If sprinkler protection is required, should special provision be made in the vicinity of the charging facility? Are there particular problems posed for fire fighting operations as a result of the inclusion of the facility as proposed which could be alleviated by a change in the proposal? Has appropriate design expertise been engaged to consider these issues?

AIBS notes that these risks are not at all well understood and out of an abundance of caution seeks to ensure that any risks that are not yet properly understood do not manifest as a call upon professional indemnity insurance policies of building surveyors in a decade from now because no one spoke up or did anything to force the issue to be resolved early. AIBS has seen and learned from the approach that was adopted by so many with respect to cladding and is determined that this will not be a lesson repeated.

AIBS is represented at an industry round table series of conversations that the ABCB is facilitating to ensure that building regulators, fire authorities and those involved in writing technical standards are informed about the latest information on the emerging risk profile from this activity and the batteries used. We will continue to inform members about the development of technical requirements and how these are intended to address known risks as and when we are able.

At this time, the Board seeks to understand members views about the draft Policy, attached, before its March meeting. To ensure the Board is properly able to take your views into account, please provide these to [email protected] by 9am eastern daylight time on 30 January 2023.

If members have any questions about the policy and its content, please post these in the NEXUS platform where other members may assist in addressing those whilst the AIBS Office is closed over the holiday period.

AIBS Policy Position DRAFT
(Adobe PDF File)