Jane Embury, director, looks at the importance of third-party fire testing
Fire safety in modern buildings is a multi-layered issue that starts at the design stage.
It involves determining a building’s capacity to withstand fire, and therefore the appropriate strategies to mitigate against it.
That includes everything from appropriate suppression measures such as sprinkler systems to active containment if a fire does break out.
The Building Safety Bill, due to be passed this year, adds yet another level of fire safety. It challenges everyone in the construction industry to better understand fire risks.
That challenge comes with heavy penalties if the “appointed persons” responsible for fire safety fail to meet their statutory responsibilities.
Those appointed persons are individuals whose task is to ensure that every phase of the design and construction of a building properly addresses fire safety.
It’s therefore about how a building is designed and built, with appropriate materials and systems to positively impact on building safety and protect life.
A failure to do so, or to maintain written records, will mean legal sanction against that appointed person – which could mean imprisonment.
In theory, the Bill moves fire safety several steps forwards. It places obligations on the principal designer, contractor, and anyone involved in the management or appointment of third parties.
Those obligations include ensuring that anyone they appoint to the building project must have the “appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours.”
If it’s later determined that those persons did to have the skill or aptitude to carry out their duties in line with Building Regulations, heavy penalties could follow.
The move to tighten fire safety is a welcome one. Many building materials and systems might be safe in one situation, but unsafe in another. For example, between a hospital or a high-rise residential building.
It’s a complex issue made more complicated by the drive to create a greener and more sustainable built environment.
Building materials are now being assessed for their environmental impacts, and not just for their fire safety. The increasing use of wood is a good example.
The important issue is whether any building material or system is fit for purpose, and that requires proper assessment and fire safety testing.
More than anything, it requires the appointed person to be able to rely on those assessments and tests for the building being designed.
That’s where there is still some ambiguity surrounding the role of the appointed person.
Because, to make a fire risk assessment effective, the appointed person must have all the necessary information to act on any recommendation made.
That’s why third-party certification is so important, because they provide independent proof of competency.
Failure to fully understand fire risks and the importance of using appropriate materials and systems exposes a building and its occupants to considerable and avoidable risks.
It also exposes appointed persons to personal and corporate liability, with a simplified paper trail to identify where risks should have been anticipated and dealt with.
It’s why all Wrightstyle systems are fully and independently tested, to UK, EU, US and Asian standards.
Our frame was combined with SCHOTT PYRANOVA® 120 glass to provide 148 minutes integrity and insulation.
For building specifiers and those appointed for building safety, the test was carried out with the exterior building surface facing into the furnace.
That means that our system has now been fully and independently accredited to provide dual directional fire resistance.
Our internal and external systems have been solely designed to provide protection against fire and ballistic and bomb attack. But we don’t just design advanced systems, we rigorously test each one of them.
We therefore welcome any legislation that brings clarity to the whole issue of building safety.
The new legislation is a wake-up call for everyone involved in building design and construction because fire safety is now top of the agenda.
That’s why it’s become vital to only specify materials and systems that have demonstrably been independe