Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

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.
June 20, 2017

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Grenfell fallout

FSF renews calls for revision of Approved Document B

The Fire Sector Federation is ratcheting up its long-running campaign for a review of Approved Document B to the building regulations in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.

It had already produced a brochure, called ‘Why does Approved Document B need to be reviewed?’, which has launched at FIREX 2017.

Citing changes in building design, practice and materials since the framework was last reviewed more than a decade ago in 2006, the FSF points out that new expectations for use and sustainability of buildings render the document not fit for purpose. It declares that the pace of transformation of construction and design, coupled with the continued threat of fire, is placing businesses and communities all over the UK at potentially fatal, risk.

“Fire risk has to be seen in the context of the built environment,” says Tom Roche, Chair of the FSF’s Built Environment Issues and Affairs Workstream. “The built environment is changing as current practices, technology and construction materials are continuously evolving.

“Collectively we need to do the same with our fire strategy and regulations to meet the fire risks that arise from these changes. This means a stronger collaborative approach is needed across the built environment to ensure that the review we are calling for goes far enough to address these issues, the increased use of fire protection as well as simplifying recommendations for those using them directly.

“Increasingly, as a Federation we are noting combustible combinations in terms of construction systems and insulation products within building assemblies. This is evident in the scale of fires that we are witnessing, in the UK and abroad.

“As a federation our concern has been that these changes are outrunning the current testing regimes in the UK, that the testing of individual components and not systems gives a misleading picture of their true fire performance. It is essential that the overall fire performance is well understood and appropriately addressed to ensure safe building designs.”

While fire deaths have fallen by 30% in the last decade, between 2015/2016 this trend reversed by 15% in terms of fire deaths, while a 5% increase in the number of fires attended was also recorded. The FSF estimates the economic cost of fire to the UK at over £9bn each year.

The Federation also points to the findings of a survey of its own members and of members of the Construction Industry Council, as well as a recent Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) survey as offering further evidence for a review.

The CLG’s survey on the user-friendliness and usability of ADB found that the document should be clearer and easier to use. It recommended that a revised ADB should consider comprehension of intention by using: Plain English; clearer diagrams for presentation; and more white space so the document is less cluttered.

It also highlighted a number of usability issues including: poor navigation; different user groups having different needs; a lack of logical flow and a difficulty finding headings; as well as inconsistency of definitions. The survey also found that there was a need for greater distinction between prescriptive and non-prescriptive guidance and for clear prescriptive guidance to minimise the chance of misinterpretation.

Meanwhile, in the FSF survey conducted by the Built Environment Issues and Affairs Workstream, 100% of FSF members agreed there was a need to address inconsistencies in building definitions and more than half of Construction Industry Council respondents found the guidance in ADB difficult to use.

In response to these survey findings, the FSF Built Environment Issues and Affairs Workstream has undertaken an extensive review of the definitions contained within ADB to clarify meaning and identify issues. These amendments will be made publicly accessible. Should CLG agree to review the document they will act as evidence for consideration.

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