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May 3, 2022


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

Office fire safety

“Fire safety for offices must start with clued-up specification”

Peter Long, Fire and Certification Director at Optima Systems, outlines his concerns over office and commercial property fire safety standards, highlighting that appropriate solutions are now available for specifiers as tighter legislation begins to filter through.

Peter Long, Fire and Certification Director at Optima Systems

Construction quality and approval process are under intense scrutiny, with the Building Safety Bill driving sweeping reforms. High rise residential buildings are the first focus, but it’s expected the legislation will also be passed to tighten building and fire safety standards in hospitals, hotels and commercial offices in the coming years.

As a supplier of office partitioning systems, my one concern is the office property world won’t be ready for this. Architects, building inspectors, owners and building product manufacturers will inevitably see new requirements around competency, collaboration and digitally presenting joined-up information, using the ‘golden thread’, as outlined by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

In the meantime, fire regulations for commercial buildings remain quite lenient, and there is ambiguity around what good fire safety systems management should look like, and indeed how to be prepared for updated building and fire safety regs when they filter through. It’s all too easy to sit back and take advantage of this, but unfortunately, the relaxed approach is likely to cause problems down the line.

What’s certain is that office interiors specification and ongoing checks and understanding of fire safety ratings for things like interior doors, panels and partitions are likely to be hugely challenging going forward. Importantly, if specifiers are cutting corners, and installing inadequately rated products today, there will be costly repercussions later.

READ: A practical guide to fire safety for offices

Fire safety R&D has led to innovative office solutions

Thankfully, there have been huge improvements across the industry regarding the development of fire safety rated products and materials, with suppliers working alongside designers and fire regulatory bodies to meet higher standards. Strides have also been made regarding better construction product information, and the ability to share it digitally.

Meanwhile, continued R&D has led to many organisations looking ahead and anticipating the changing needs and trends within built environments. This leads to more testing and more product development for applications not already covered by existing systems. This commitment to providing projects with the best performing fire solutions generates a constant drive for new and better products. Suppliers are now offering tailored solutions to meet individual building needs. For instance, at Optima, we can offer a range of Fire Rated Partitions that can achieve 120-minute fire ratings as standard, but different ratings can be achieved according to project specifications.

Expertise in fire-rated systems is essential

I’m always reminding office designers that specifying fire-rated products does not inherently make the space fire-safe. You have to put in place a systems approach so that the installation and risk assessment of fire-rated products are regularly overseen once the building is in use. Even the slightest modification to a fire-rated product, such as changing an interior door’s access control system, or switching one type of stainless-steel handle to another, can compromise its integrity. So detailed training and CPD for specifiers, and the accountable person managing office buildings, must be factored in.


And of course, offices must be fire safe and look great and feel comfortable to work in. This is certainly now achievable, as today glazed and sliding doors, adaptable ‘office pods’ and acoustically-optimised partitions are manufactured with fire safety, sustainability and sleek design in mind. Many glass office partition systems also allow for natural light and air circulation to flow through the space, which helps boost staff wellbeing in the office too.

Fire safety is of the utmost importance, and I’m confident the commercial office industry will get up to speed with understanding fire safety standards, testing and reporting regimes and ongoing compliance as the rules tighten. Thankfully there are fantastic fire-resistant solutions coming to the office market, designed for safety, flexible use and aesthetic appeal.

Now is the time to take advantage of the knowledge and guidance available from materials manufacturers and suppliers, and be ready for tomorrow’s challenges.


Secure your ticket for FIREX 2023!

16-18 May 2023, ExCeL London | Bringing competency in fire safety to the forefront

Connect with the fire safety community at FIREX 2023. You'll find hundreds of leading exhibitors from the active and passive fire sector, showcasing all the latest in fire protection, prevention and detection solutions. With third-party product approvals a condition of exhibiting, visitors can be assured of the quality of solutions they're seeing, and the all-new distributor network is also launching this year.

Network with thousands of peers and likeminded professionals, while attending dedicated conference sessions covering updates in legislation, technology and building safety from leading figures in the industry.


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