Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
December 21, 2018

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building regulations review

Third-party certificated products “should be mandated”: FPA responds to Hackitt plan

Third-party certificated products should be mandated  and apply to product installers and risk assessors, according to a leading fire safety expert.

Jonathan O’Neill OBE, managing director of the Fire Protection Association, was responding to publication of the government’s implementation plan, which promised to implement all recommendations made in the post-Grenfell review of building regulations.

Housing Minister James Brokenshire said reforms would improve regulations and accountability, make standards and guidance more rigorous, give residents a stronger voice, invite input from stakeholder industries and impose tougher penalties on those found in breach of the law.

Dame Hackitt, who chaired the review of building regulations, concluded in March that a cost-driven “race to the bottom” in building standards had put the safety of residents living in high-rise buildings at risk.

The new regulatory framework envisaged by the implementation plan will apply to multi-occupancy buildings of at least 10 storeys. A consultation taking place in the spring 2019 will consider whether additional buildings should be included.

The government also announced a review of fire safety regulations, currently framed by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. A standards committee will be established over the next 12 months to advise the Housing Minister on construction product and system standards.

“We welcome acknowledgement of the value of third-party certificated products, but this should be mandated and extend to product installers and risk assessors.” Jonathan O’Neill OBE, MD, FPA

The government reaffirmed its commitment to a comprehensive review of Approved Document B and issued a call for evidence.

Jonathan O’Neill OBE said his association welcomed “the announcement” but said the “exercise is long overdue and needs to be concluded quickly.”

He added: “We welcome the acknowledgement of the value of third-party certificated products, but believe this assurance should be mandated and extend to the installers of products and the risk assessors. There is clearly much to do but we are keen to see change as soon as possible and will help in any way we can to ensure that we never experience a tragedy on the scale we witnessed at Grenfell – on our or any future generations’ watch.”

Tom Roche, senior consultant for international codes and standards at insurer FM Global, said: “We will be analysing the issues raised in more detail but we are pleased to see that the government is considering whether current guidance on property protection should go further, considering property resilience in addition to life safety.

“We have long held the view that the current guidance is confusing as many property owners, both domestic and non-domestic, wrongly assume that compliance with the regulations means that their building will be resilient. We look forward to actively contributing to the technical review.”

The Fire Industry Association has noted that the “implementation plan also highlights the work of the industry-led Competence Steering Group, and its working groups, to develop measures to provide assurance on the competence of those working on buildings in scope.”

In an article on LinkedIn it continued: “The plan sets out the work of the Industry Safety Steering Group to hold industry to account for progress in implementing the changes Dame Judith recommended in her report. This Group is committed to sharing their insight and to bringing industry together to ensure early action is taking place at the right time and at the right pace.”

The government says it will also consult on proposals to create dutyholders responsible for ensuring fire safety is a priority at every phase of the design and construction process.

Kizzy Augustin, partner at Russell-Cooke, has previously stressed the importance of individuals being held to account, saying: “It’s not just about fines for companies; it is about the possible imprisonment for individuals.”

Speaking at FIREX International 2018 in June she added: “We are not just talking about local authorities and tenancy management associations. We are talking about dutyholders who have been involved in a refurbishment, remodelling, installing, designing, constructing etc. There is a whole tranche of duty holders who could potentially be affected by fire safety investigations.”

The government also pledged to create a Joint Regulators Group comprising bodies like the Health and Safety Executive and the Local Government Association (LGA).

“Lagging behind Wales and Scotland”

Despite the wide-ranging measures, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has slammed the government’s response as slow and inadequate. “England is now lagging behind Wales and Scotland, who have in place or are introducing regulations to require sprinklers and provide a second means of escape,” said Jane Duncan, chair of the expert advisory group on fire safety at RIBA.

“Until we see real reform of the procurement processes for construction projects, the pressure to cut costs will continue to incentivise the use of cheaper and ultimately riskier materials, reduction in accountability and a lack of competence and supervision.”

“‘The government must urgently reform the inspection process and place a holistic focus on safety, and building quality.”

Hackitt’s recommendations, issued in May 2018, were broadly welcomed by the fire industry, although she was criticised in some quarters for not recommending an outright ban on combustible cladding. A cladding system with highly flammable rainscreen panels had been installed on Grenfell Tower shortly before the blaze, in which 71 people died in June 2017.

Combustible cladding has since been banned on new high-rise homes. However, smoke toxicity tests conducted by the Fire protection Association have suggested building regulations overlook health hazards posed by toxic gases emitted when external cladding catches fire.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “There is nothing more important than being safe in your own home and I am determined to improve building safety. My plan for stronger, tougher rules will make sure there is no hiding place for those who flout building safety rules.

“By making people responsible and more accountable for safety, we will create a more rigorous system so residents will always have peace of mind that they are safe in their own homes.”

A spokesman for campaign group Grenfell United said: “We must be vigilant to ensure government and industry, that so badly failed us, do not water down these changes. Resident voices must be given weight and parliament must keep a watchful eye on progress.”

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ALASTAIR BROCKETTNeil AshdownJohn SearDAVID EVANS Recent comment authors
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DAVID EVANS
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DAVID EVANS

The materials to implement all the regulation are on the Market in Europe and the UK now. The whole building industry needs to be draw into the future right now and start using them.

John Sear
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John Sear

We should be cautious,
The regulation was set up to allow small business to carry out their own fire risk assessment. This will force them to use qualified and approved assessors upping the cost and load to an increasing over worked SME.
Small one person landlords will use it as an excuse to close HMOs increasing the lack housing. BE careful

Neil Ashdown
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Neil Ashdown

Its right that we should be careful. My own inspections have shown that third party certification of products and installation is not a guarantee of quality. Still products and site works are found to be non compliant. Up-skilling the workforce is likely to improve quality of workmanship effectively rather than simply more and more companies attaining TPC to existing schemes.

ALASTAIR BROCKETT
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ALASTAIR BROCKETT

Whilst 3rd party accreditation (3PA) is a worthy goal it adds another administrative and bureaucratic layer to minimum approvals that are required (test and possible assessment). What’s wrong with full implementation of CPR? Require that fire prevention products are CE marked. Stop pratting about and make ETAG 26 a hEN for example. It is well accepted that the EN standards are far more robust (21C applicability), with application pertinent tests (eg, penetration seals, linear joints etc). At the moment 3PA can be obtained with BS 476 (a 30 year old standard). CE marking means up to date testing to a… Read more »

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