Home Features Ensuring fire safety through compliant product specification

The Draft Building Safety Bill is set to make the biggest changes in 40 years to the way buildings are designed, specifi ed, procured and constructed, by altering the process and introducing checks at key stages to ensure that the requirements of the Building Regulations have been met. The new Bill will help achieve a clearer and more consistent system that ensures that individuals’ safety remains the priority, not only throughout the initial construction process, but the entire lifecycle of the building.

Mick Hill, Lead Technical Manager at Profab Access, explores the importance of providing a ‘golden thread’ of digital building information when specifying bi-directionally fi re-resistant riser doors, to ensure the highest standards in compliance and performance.

Just last year, an investigation from Inside Housing into the replacement of faulty fire doors by councils across the UK, found that across 98 councils, around 10% (approximately 33,000
fire doors) were unlikely to satisfy the 30-minute fire resistant standard. While research such as this demonstrates just how far those responsible for specifying fire doors (or offering alternatives) still need to go with regard to understand fire performance test data, the release of the Draft Building Safety Bill, along with the initial Hackitt Report and subsequent amendments to Building Regulations Approved Document B (Fire Safety), marks the first significant step in helping to achieve a safer and more transparent environment for individuals to live and work in.

Know your legislation
In order to successfully meet the requirements outlined within the new guidance, professionals should take a proactive approach to the specifi cation of passive fire safety components by selecting building products that have clear, independent performance data and are supported by third party certification. This includes having a clear understanding of the fire testing that each product has undergone and the legislation it complies with. Considering steel riser doors, architects should specify solutions that have been fi re tested to BS EN 1634-1:2014+A1:2018 or BS 476 part 22, as outlined in Annex C of Approved Document B Volume 2.

Where designated, the doors should also comply with BS 476-31.1 for smoke tests, BS8214 for the installation for fire doorsets and should be specified and installed in accordance with BS 9999:2017 for the code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings.

Clear communication
Dame Judith Hackitt noted that alongside questionable compliance, there was a distinct lack of recording what was installed and called for a ‘golden thread’ of information running through all stages of the design and construction, to provide a resource of information to ensure that buildings will be successfully maintained.

The file of information should include the initial specification, backed up with test evidence and a record of any changes made before construction.

Manufacturers have been taking on board the recommendations of the Hackitt Report and can provide comprehensive BIM objects, along with corresponding digital data and certifications to ensure they obtain the necessary comparable product data.

Manufacturers’ technical teams are able to help those specifying products by using their deep knowledge to ensure the correct products and systems are correctly specified, and where products interface with other products, their performance can be maintained.

Some specifics
The new Construction Playbook states that ‘Engaging early with the supply chain and developing clear, appropriate outcomebased specifications are critical factors in achieving timely and cost-effective delivery’.

Riser doors should be specified as bi-directionally fire tested models to comply. This is because the doors are not symmetrical and, as such, require testing with both faces towards the test furnace,
something that is easy to miss in the process as required by ADB, in addition to the asymmetrical clauses of BS EN 1634-1.

Because the riser doors are physically tested in both directions, it provides confidence that the integrity of the door will adequately withstand exposure to fire and smoke from both directions for the stated time period.

Third party testing
Specifying products, including fire doors that have been third party tested by a certified provider, will also further enhance the golden thread of information, as it provides a clear trail of evidence that ensures the passive fire product complies with all current legislations, whilst also going above and beyond in terms of best practice.

The certification of fire doors by an independently accredited third party certification body also provides architects and their clients with the highest degree of confidence and assurance that the doors have met the test requirements, and that the manufacturer has robust factory control processes in place and test specimens are witnessed and signed off by the third party.

It’s worth noting here that it is possible to market products years after a single test, and, as we have seen recently at the Grenfell Inquiry, resulting in changes to the makeup of products going unnoticed – with dire results.

Guidance
The Approved Documents accompanying the Building Regulations make it clear that the person specifying the product is responsible for ensuring that they comply; they have to rely on the information provided but sometimes it only appears as a claim in marketing information.

Specifiers can mitigate this risk by working closely with the manufacturer and asking them to provide evidence that can be recorded. The very nature of bi-directional fire testing means that because the riser door is exposed and tested from both directions, it is compliant with the ADB and associated required standards, whilst also reflecting the principles of the Draft Building Safety Bill to help ensure a building will deliver, and continue to deliver, the highest standards in fire safety.

As part of their combined commitment to improve and legitimise the testing, certification and installation of riser doors, Profab Access and the Finishes & Interiors Sector are working closely to develop comprehensive guidance for industry professionals. This includes installation guides that recommend best practices and methods for the correct installation of riser doors, while also providing clarification on testing requirements for riser doors to ensure legal compliance, and raising awareness of the significant importance of third party independent fire testing certification.

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