Building warrants of fitness for school facilities
This guidance supports your statutory obligations under the Building Act 2004. Find advice, resources and access Argest contact details to arrange for a BWOF inspection.
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If your school has one of the specified systems or features on the Compliance Schedule, you are required to pass a BWOF inspection and maintain your compliance annually.
- Your legal responsibilities
- List of systems and features covered by a BWOF
- Get a BWOF
- BWOF for new schools
- If you fail the BWOF inspection
- Paying for work to get a BWOF
- If your specified systems and features change
- Making sure building work doesn’t affect your specified systems and features
- Displaying your BWOF
- Other systems and features that need to be inspected
- Issues and complaints
If your school has any features or systems listed below, the local council will have given you a Compliance Schedule.
A Building Warrant of Fitness (BWOF) shows that your school complies with the Compliance Schedule
The Compliance Schedule lists the specified systems and features at your school and sets out the inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures needed to get a BWOF.
Argest (the Ministry's Building Act Compliance Manager) will issue you a School Building Systems and Features Compliance Manual.
Having safe systems and features at your school is part of your overall health and safety responsibilities.
To meet the requirements of the Building Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act we recommend you review your school's health and safety systems.
The relevant acts are on the NZ Legislation website:
If your school has any of these systems and features, then you need a BWOF:
- fire alarms, and a fire and smoke control system
- automatic doors and windows
- emergency lighting systems
- escape route pressurisation systems
- lifts and other systems for moving people or goods
- mechanical air conditioning and ventilation
- building maintenance units
- audio loops and other assistive learning systems
- emergency power systems
- laboratory fume cupboards
- riser mains for use by fire services
- automatic backflow preventers
- heat pumps that bring in air from outside (you are responsible for inspecting and maintaining heat pumps that do not bring in air from outside).
For a full list of features:
To get a BWOF, please contact Argest (the Ministry's Building Act Compliance Manager), and they will arrange a date for an annual building inspection.
The Ministry pays for the BWOF as part of its duty as a landlord.
Arrange an annual inspection
To arrange an inspection, contact Argest at:
Phone: 0800 274 378
Argest will arrange an Independent Qualified Person (IQP) to do the inspections and maintenance. You must use the person that Argest recommends. However, there is an exemption for specialist work - see below.
The IQP will discuss the School Access Plan and your options regarding access.
The Argest website has the following useful information:
- The Argest Health and Safety Plan
- Argest School Access Plan (SAP), which describes how subcontractors conduct their work and what level of security vetting they will have
Inspections by school staff throughout the year
You need to make sure the specified systems and features are inspected and maintained throughout the year, as required by the Compliance Schedule that the council has given you.
The systems or features that you must inspect are outlined in Section 5 of your School Building Systems and Features Compliance Manual.
Argest provides free training for the staff member that will carry out these inspections.
You also need to:
- Record the names of staff who can do inspections in the School Staff Inspection Register (this is at the front of your School Building Systems and Features Compliance Manual)
- Record the dates of inspections in section 5 of your School Building Systems and Features Compliance Manual and online at www.abc.argest.com/(external link)
- Keep a record of these staff inspections for at least 2 years as evidence for your BWOF.
An Independent Qualified Person will check your records every year.
If you need specialists to do the maintenance or repair
Specialist work could include work on automatic doors, fire systems and extraction systems like fume cupboards.
Argest may be able to suggest contractors if you need specialist work done.
You don’t have to use the Independent Qualified Person, you can use any competent company. But when you engage the contractor, you must follow the Ministry’s procurement process.
After the inspection
If everything passes, Argest will issue a BWOF.
If there is a problem, you will be issued with a Work Requirement Notice. This notice includes an identification number so that the work can be tracked.
Below is a simple flow diagram that outlines the WRN process for schools.
- Argest contract Independent Qualified Persons (IQP) to check the school's specified systems as required and outlined in compliance schedule issued by the Council
- If a fault or defect is identified by the IQP that makes the system non-compliant then a WRN is issued to the school and the school needs to organise to get the issue fixed
- The school chooses which contractor they want to employ to carry out the required work, this does not have to be the company that issued the WRN
- The school engages the contractor to fix the fault or defect and pays for the cost of these repairs. It is important that this work is undertaken as soon as possible*
- Once the Work has been completed the school is to notify Argest of this and of who completed the work. Argest will close the WRN off on their system**
Important to note
*If a WRN is not resolved it can have an impact on the school’s Building Warrant of Fitness.
Delays closing WRNs which result in the BWOF being issued late may result in a ‘Notice to Fix’ with a fee invoice from the Council. If the BWOF continues to be delayed then a Council fine may follow with an infringement notice which the school would be liable to pay.
**Argest will ask for “evidence” of the WRN work being done, the schools needs to provide a job sheet or invoice from the firm that did the work that will allow the IQP to sign the off that system as fixed and now compliant. If this information is not supplied then a reinspection by the IQP is required.
Keep a copy in your School Building Systems and Features Compliance Manual.
When a school is built, the local council issues a Code Compliance Certificate, followed by a Compliance Schedule and a Compliance Schedule Statement.
After 12 months, this is replaced by a BWOF.
If there is an outstanding Work Requirement Notice or staff inspection:
- Argest will not issue you a BWOF
- The Ministry won’t release funding or approve any capital projects
- The council may issue a Notice to Fix, along with a fine.
Argest or the Ministry will contact you to find out what is being done about the Work Requirement Notices and inspection confirmation checks.
If you don’t have a current (annual) BWOF, you are in breach of Section 108 of the Building Act 2004. It also means the school buildings may be unsafe.
To check the status of your Work Requirements, please contact your local Ministry office.
If the local council issues a Notice to Fix
If Argest is unable to issue your new BWOF, the local council may issue you with a Notice to Fix.
The Notice to Fix says what work needs to be done (and by when) to make the building comply with the Building Act.
If you fail to comply, your school could be fined from $2,000 for a one-off fine, and up to $20,000 per day.
Pay for any maintenance work using your Property Maintenance Grant (PMG) funding.
Pay for any capital upgrades using your 5 Year Agreement (5YA) funding.
Depending on how urgent the work is, you will either plan for it in your 10 Year Property Plan (10YPP) or have it done straightaway.
If any specified systems and features are no longer in use, are removed or are newly installed, you must let the Argest know. Email email@example.com or call
Anything other than "repairs and maintenance" to a specified system, may require Building Consent from the council.
If you’re having any building work done, you must make sure it doesn’t affect your specified systems. For example, drilling holes in fire walls can make them less effective at stopping fires.
Let the project manager for any new building know what specified systems and features you have.
Display the original, signed copy of your BWOF in a visible place, like the main foyer, where anyone coming into the school can see it.
Some schools have systems or features that aren’t part of the BWOF inspection process but still need to be inspected once a year.
If your school has its own water supply, you need to regularly test the quality of the water. Argest will help you record the results online.
Also see: Drinking water quality.
Sawdust extraction systems
Sawdust extraction systems will be inspected by Argest annually.
Some councils are adding sawdust extraction systems to the Compliance Schedule, so you will need to show that they are being maintained by a service provider.
Handheld fire equipment
Handheld fire equipment includes hose reels and extinguishers.
Equipment must be checked monthly and when used.
Security systems must not have smoke or heat detectors attached.
Contact Argest for advice about inspecting security systems.
Also see: Security design in schools.
If you have any concerns with the performance of contractors, email:
The issue will be passed to the Contract Manager to resolve.
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