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.
January 10, 2019

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Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety

Hackitt plan prescribes changes the fire community called for long before Grenfell: ASFP

The government’s pledge to implement in full the recommendations made by the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety has been welcomed by the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP).

In particular the ASFP welcomed the announcement of a comprehensive review of Approved Document B – the document setting out building regulations.

The association has, however, expressed misgivings about the pace of change, with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) not planning to consult on many aspects of the implementation until the spring.

And ASFP CEO Niall Rowan reflected a frustration of many in the fire community that it took the worst UK fire in living memory to prompt substantive changes that “the fire community, including the ASFP” had been calling for well before the Grenfell fire.

The ASFP has backed the Hackitt Review’s focus on ensuring fire safety is prioritised early in the design process. The introduction of mandatory sign-off procedures at planning, permission, permission to build and permission to occupy stages has also been endorsed by the association.

Overarching competency framework

The ASFP, which welcomed the emphasis on improving competency throughout the construction process, is working with competency working groups established by the construction industry’s competency steering group to deliver proposals for an overarching competency framework.

MHCLG’s avowed goal of raising product test standards and engendering greater clarity in marketing has also won the ASFP’s backing.

The association gave qualified backing to government support for third-party certification schemes for products, recommending that this should extend to installers, where it believes many of the current problems lie. This echoes similar comments made by Jonathan O’Neill of the FPA.

“We welcome the tightening of qualifications, experience and training required of those who will undertake assessments in lieu of tests.” ASFP CEO Niall Rowan

New government guidance prohibits the use of ‘desktop studies‘ for external wall systems for all buildings in scope of the combustible materials ban.

Desktop studies assess a material’s fire resistance by extrapolating data from previous tests of similar materials or the same material under similar conditions, instead of testing materials anew under lab conditions.

The new guidance restricts the use of such assessments in other areas. But the ASFP believes these new requirements are quite restrictive and has identified contradictions in the MHCLG guidance. It says it will seek clarification on theses points.

ASFP has been working within the Passive Fire Protection Forum on a revised Guide to Undertaking Assessments in Lieu of Fire Tests, which prescribes who should undertake such assessments in terms of qualifications, experience and training. A revised version is expected early in 2019.

“The association welcomes the government’s aim to implement Dame Judith’s recommendations as we strongly agreed with her conclusions – many of which reflect what the fire community, including the ASFP, has been saying for some years,” said ASFP CEO Niall Rowan. “We also welcome the announcement of a full review of Approved Document B, which we believe is long overdue.

“We are pleased to see support for third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and looks forward to working with government and other stakeholders to develop minimum standards for such schemes.

“We also welcome the tightening of the qualifications, experience and training required of those who will undertake assessments in lieu of tests, but will seek clarification as to the scope, particularly for non-building envelope related products.

“We understand the recommendations of the Hackitt Review were detailed and wide-ranging, since they called for a complete overhaul of the building regulatory system. We look forward to working with government and other stakeholders to achieve the extensive and lasting culture change necessary to ensure the safety of our existing and future built environment.”

The FSF has also welcomed the government’s implementation plan.

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David P Sugden
David P Sugden

As a former CEO and Chairman of the ASFP and for 17 years Chairman of the PFPF I fully endorse Mr Rowan’s comments and confirm that in 2003 we warned the DTI/DETR that a dangerous lack of control of PFP measures in buildings could result serious danger to the public. This warning came in an official report funded in part by the Government and presented to a Parliamentary Seminar in June 2002. Dame Judith’s recommendations go long way to solving the problems identified 20 years ago

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