At Wrightstyle, we have a proud track record of developing next-generation fire resistant glazing systems, writes our MD Tim Kempster.
For example, we were the first company to design and successfully test a fire-rated openable window. That was designed specifically for a hotel in Dubai.
More recently, we brought to market the first unlatched glazed fire-resistant doors.
We’ve also not been shy in bringing issues of concern to governments.
We did that in Dubai where test certificates were being abused. And we also did it with the UK government in relation to fire door certification.
But it’s taken tragedy to really start improving fire safety.
Pre-Grenfell, it was the design manager who would use his or her judgement about the level of fire protection.
That often meant, to save money, that fire protective levels were lowered from, say, 60 minutes to 30 minutes. A cost saving, yes, but at what cost?
Now, there is a greater recognition that passive fire protection shouldn’t just be about price. It means that some designers – some, not all – are starting to err on the side of caution.
We always advise architects and designers that they should also only specify products and systems that have been tested together.
Effective compartmentalisation will only work if the glass and its framing system have been tested as one unit.
Because if one element fails, the whole system fails. That’s why all our products have been fully tested, and therefore carry our unambiguous guarantee.
Another element of poor practice was using installers who clearly should not have been in the fire installation business.
Simply, installing a fire-rated system involves complexities that a non-fire system doesn’t have.
The Grenfell fire will, no doubt, usher in more stringent regulations. It’s called “codifying by catastrophe” and, sadly, is often the reason for changing fire and building regulations.
But we’re glad, in the meantime, that many designers are not now being so complacent about fire safety. Because when it comes to human life complacency should never be an option.