Building warrants of fitness for school facilities
This guidance supports your statutory obligations under the Building Act 2004. Get advice, resources, and Argest contact details to arrange for a Building Warrant of Fitness (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 Building Warrant of Fitness (BWOF) inspection and maintain your compliance annually.
- Your legal responsibilities
- BWOF for new schools
- Paying for work to resolve a WRN
- WRNs not resolved before the BWOF due date
- Alterations to your school property
- Displaying your BWOF
- Other systems and features that need to be inspected
- Issues and complaints
If your school has any features or systems listed in the Specified Systems list, the local council will have given you a Compliance Schedule.
Argest – Building and Compliance Specified Systems list [PDF, 130 KB]
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) works with you and the Ministry to ensure that all state school buildings maintain a current BWOF, this includes the management and issue of BWOF’s, management of Compliance Schedules and scheduling inspections. Argest will issue you a School Building Systems and Features Compliance Manual to guide you on how to manage your BWOF responsibilities.
Your legal responsibilities
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:
Building Act 2004(external link)
Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link)
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fire Safety, Evacuation Procedures, Evacuation Schemes) Regulations 2018(external link)
BWOF for new schools
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.
The Ministry pays for the BWOF as part of its duty as a landlord.
If your school is new, contact Argest to set up and arrange the necessary building inspections.
Phone: 0800 274 378 (8:30am - 4:30pm, Monday to Friday)
Every year, Argest arranges an Independent Qualified Person (IQP) to complete the necessary inspections of your safety features and systems. Preventative maintenance is also carried out on lift and auto door systems. You must use the person that Argest recommends. However, there is an exemption for specialist work. See details below.
The main IQP service providers are:
The IQP will contact you to arrange a suitable time to carry out the inspections.
All inspectors and maintenance technicians have been police vetted and will carry School Access Cards.
All IQPs must follow the Argest School Access Plan and Health and Safety Plan, which have been developed to ensure safe conduct while they are on your school site. Copies of these are available on the Argest website.
School information – Argest website(external link)
Inspections by school staff throughout the year
As the building occupant, you have a very important responsibility to undertake regular “School Staff Inspections”. These inspections form part of the BWOF requirements and are crucial to your school achieving an annual BWOF.
There are three steps to follow to ensure School Staff inspections are done and recorded correctly:
- Carry out inspections, at the required times, as specified in the inspection procedures in Section 5 of the School Building Systems and Features Compliance manual
- Record and sign off the completion of the required inspections on the forms found in Section 5 of the school's Compliance Manual as supplied by Argest, then
- Confirm these two actions have been done on the Argest online school portal by the 5th of the following month. Keep a record of these staff inspections for at least two years as evidence for your BWOF.
An IQP will check your records every year.
These actions are crucial to maintaining Building Act compliance and if not completed could lead to your school not getting your BWOF.
Inspection log sheets to record your inspections, and keep in your manual, can be downloaded and printed anytime from the Argest School Portal.
Argest School Portal(external link)
If you need help to access the online school portal, contact Argest for your login details.
Free training and advice are available to you at any time. If you have any questions about your BWOF responsibilities or need training on how to carry out inspections, please contact Argest.
Phone: 0800 274 378 (8:30am–4:30pm, Monday to Friday)
There are videos on the Argest website that demonstrate how to carry out some of the inspections and checks your school needs to complete.
School information – Argest website(external link)
After the inspection
If everything passes, Argest will email you a BWOF for you to print off and display.
If an issue has been identified, you will be issued a Work Requirement Notice (WRN).
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**
It is important that you keep a copy of any repair details in your School Building Systems and Features Compliance Manual for 2 years as a record.
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 which contractors could carry out this work.
You don’t have to use the IQP that carried out the inspection, you can use any competent company. When you engage the contractor, you must follow the Ministry’s procurement process.
Procurement for school property projects
Paying for work to resolve a WRN
Pay for any maintenance work using your Property Maintenance Grant (PMG) funding.
Property Maintenance Grant (PMG)
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 straight away.
WRNs not resolved before the BWOF due date
Argest is not able to issue your BWOF until all systems are fully compliant and your Council has approved the BWOF to be issued. If there is an outstanding WRN or staff inspection this can hold up the BWOF being issued.
Argest or the Ministry will contact you to find out what is being done about the WRN and inspection confirmation checks.
The Ministry won’t release funding or approve any capital projects if you have outstanding WRNs to resolve.
Your local council may issue a Notice to Fix, along with a fine. 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 $20,000 for a one-off fine and up to $2,000 per day.
Not having a current BWOF is a serious matter, you are in breach of Section 108 of the Building Act 2004. It also means the school buildings may be unsafe.
Alterations to your school property
Please notify Argest if any of the following occurs at your school:
- any additional building (i.e. new classrooms, hall, gymnasium) that have been added to your school site
- any specified systems or features are newly installed, added, upgraded, extended, removed or no longer in used
- anything other than "repairs and maintenance" to a specified system, will require Building Consent from the council.
Making sure building work doesn’t affect your specified systems and features
If you are having any building work done, you must make sure it doesn’t adversely affect your existing specified systems. For example, drilling holes in firewalls can make them less effective at stopping fires.
Let the project manager know what specified systems and features you have so that they can ensure any make good requirements are included in the project scope.
Displaying your BWOF
Display a framed, colour, signed copy of your current BWOF in a visible place where anyone coming into the school can see it, like the main foyer.
Other systems and features that need to be inspected
Some schools have systems or features that aren’t part of the BWOF inspection process but still need to be inspected and reported on.
School water supply
If your school has its own water supply, you need to regularly test the quality of the water. The results of the test need to be recorded on the Argest School Portal.
Argest School Portal(external link)
Drinking water quality
The Ministry has requested that all boilers used for building heating in all state schools have an independent condition assessment carried out under our contract. Argest has arranged for Aquaheat to carry these out.
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.
Issues and complaints
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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