Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
September 15, 2022

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Standards

The digital management of fire safety information – An overview of BS 8644-1

Aman Sharma led the BSI committee that spent almost five years developing the new British Standard 8644-1, which is designed to provide recommendations and guidance on the digital management of fire safety information throughout the life cycle of an asset. Now published by the BSI, Sharma provides IFSEC Global readers with an overview of what the standard involves, why it was formulated, who it has been developed for and how it should be used.

Aman Sharma is CEO of Totus Digital, Chair of BSI Committee FSB 1/1/1 & Deputy Chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee

What is BS 8644-1:2022?

On the 31 July 2022 the British Standards Institution published BS 8644-1:2022 – Digital management of fire safety information. Part 1: Design, construction, handover, asset management and emergency response – Code of practice.

This part of BS 8644 gives recommendations and guidance to manage fire safety information digitally throughout the life cycle of an asset. It sets out processes to achieve this for all parties responsible for fire safety, and has been developed to ‘bridge the gap’ between the fire safety and information management sectors, respectively.

In order to do this, BS 8644-1 encourages readers to familiarise themselves with the information management processes described in the BS EN ISO 19650 series – the international series of standards for managing information over the whole life cycle of a built asset using building information modelling (BIM).

Having been founded on UK standards, BS EN ISO 19650 is widely adopted internationally and is the accepted methodology for information management using BIM. The recommendations made in BS 8644-1 apply to all parts of the built environment sector, and to new developments as well as existing built assets.

Why should I use this standard?

In 2018 Dame Judith Hackitt published her independent review into building regulations and fire safety. Her conclusions highlighted this problem in particular, noting a cultural issue in effective information management for building and fire safety.

Dame Judith recommended that a golden thread of information should be kept digitally (on higher risk buildings) and that this information should be used to mitigate the risks identified during the design, construction and operation of such buildings.

Current practices for fire safety information management have remained inconsistent and unstructured, with the inability to provide evidence for legacy fire safety information on existing buildings still a systemic problem.

BS 8644-1 can now be used to establish a basepoint from which the fire safety industry can begin to implement a consistent and coordinated approach to fire safety information management, enabling the development of a golden thread of fire safety information at any point during the lifecycle of a building.

The recommendations and guidance provided within BS 8644-1 will help to bring the necessary cultural change to information management in the fire safety sector.

Who should use the BS 8644-1 standard?

BS 8644-1 has been developed for individuals and organisations responsible for the development and management of fire safety information. This captures a number of potential contributors, including;

  • Clients
  • Architects
  • Designers
  • Fire Engineers
  • Building Services Engineers
  • BIM Coordinators / Information Managers
  • Construction Contractors
  • Facility Managers
  • Building Occupants
  • Fire & Rescue Services

For organisations wishing to develop and maintain a golden thread of fire safety information throughout the lifecycle of their buildings, BS 8644-1 can be used (in conjunction with other guidance and standards) to begin defining their fire safety information requirements, and the process by which that information will be managed. This will enable the right people having the right information at the right time, ensuring that the information remains relevant, accurate and accessible.

How should I use BS 8644-1?

BS 8644-1 can be applied on new-build projects or existing buildings. The standard can also be implemented strategically within an organisation to provide a consistent approach to fire safety information management.

BS 8644-1 should ideally be implemented in accordance with the BS EN ISO 19650 series. However, it is recognised that the fire safety sector is less familiar with this suite of guidance, and so will require time to fully mature a consistent, sector driven, standard information approach for fire safety.

In response to this challenge, processes for managing fire safety information digitally without using BS EN ISO 19650 are also described within BS 8644-1. It is the intention that this approach will act as a ‘stepping stone’ for readers to mature their digital process for managing fire safety information, in line with the BS EN ISO 19650 series.

The steps ahead for the fire industry…

Improving information management processes across the fire safety sector is essential to embedding a better standard of fire safety across the built environment. Whilst building and fire safety regulatory reform in England has begun to enable this, the recommendations made within this British Standard are applicable to other regulatory regimes also.

Fire safety information should no longer be thought of as a by-product of actions or tasks completed during the life cycle of an asset. Relevant and accurate fire safety information must be used as a tool to enable better levels of fire safety.

With better information management comes more effective, pragmatic decision making. This will mitigate the consequential safety risk associated with most buildings comprising the built environment and, as far as is reasonably practicable, help users of the built environment to keep safe from the effects of fire.

The BS 8644 suite will continue development across relevant industry groups, scoping a consistent and standard data schema to enable non-proprietary information exchange to be completed in line with existing protocols for other information exchanges.

The publication of BS 8644-1 marks the end of the beginning of the development of a British Standard that has begun pioneering an internationally accepted methodology for digital fire safety information management, ensuring that building information modelling becomes synonymous with fire safety; and seamless when put in operation.

I’d like to place on record my thanks to each individual and representative organisation who have supported the development of BS 8644-1 over this five-year period, and I look forward to bringing fresh thinking and increasingly innovative approaches into the next phases of development, as we seek to standardise processes for enabling a golden thread of fire safety information across our built environment.

Aman Sharma is CEO of Totus Digital, Chair of BSI Committee FSB 1/1/1 & Deputy Chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee.

Access British Standard 8644-1 – Digital Management of Fire Safety Information from the BSI website, here. 

 

Fire Safety in 2021 eBook – Is the industry ready to embrace systemic change?

Download the Fire Safety in 2021 eBook, as IFSEC Global and FIREX International keep you up to date with the biggest stories of the year, including new legislation, a round-up of the biggest news stories, and articles on third-party certification and the role of digital information software in meeting golden thread principles.

The eBook also features an exclusive foreword from the Fire Industry Association's Ian Moore, and a look at how the sector embraces systemic change in attitudes to risk and safety.

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