The Grenfell review from Dame Judith Hackitt concluded that the current legislation regarding fire safety equipment in the UK is not fit for purpose and that it needs to improve. Learning the best that we can from other countries (such as those in the European Union) while avoiding their shortcomings would be a good start.
But while well-considered fire safety regulation is essential, it is equally important for all those involved in the design and construction of buildings and construction products to have an understanding of what fire can do to a building and how damage and danger can be minimised.
In June 2017, a fire claimed 72 lives at Grenfell Tower in Kensington. Eleven months later, Dame Judith Hackitt, who was commissioned to determine the cause of the disaster, released a report featuring eight key recommendations to limit the chances of similar catastrophes occurring in the future.
Those recommendations require building managers to keep digital building records, from the design and conceptualisation phase through its life cycle. With the boom years of High Rise Residential Buildings (HRRB) development between 1953 and 1972, and with 6544 buildings erected in the half-century following the end of World War 2, nearly all of the remaining 270 HRRBs were built in a pre-digital age.
As Sidey, Scotland’s strongest fenestration company, was among the first UK companies to achieve the new fire door certification, Joint Managing Director Steve Hardy talks about the importance of accreditations and the fact that the company has now added glazed options to its existing range…
Sidey was one of the first companies to achieve the new accreditations and we are now in a position to further add to our existing FD30 Composite Fire Door collection by offering glazed options. Following independent factory product audits, our full range of composite fire doors have been fully certified under the BM Trada scheme STD 170 and tested to BS EN1634-1 for fire resistance, both internally and externally.
Last month I wrote a technical review of the latest Fire Safety Bill, where I outlined the specific details of how the Fire Safety Bill legislation will be implemented and enforced.
Similarly, this month we will be focusing on the latest part of the attempts to create a reformed building safety regulatory system, specifically the Government’s Draft Building Safety Bill and what this will mean for the service and maintenance of buildings.
On the 2nd April, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced ambitious steps, initiated by the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, to further reform the building safety system, with the aim of ensuring that residents are safe in their homes.
Firstly, MHCLG have published their response to the Building a Safer Future Consultation which sets out plans to reform building safety. This includes creating a new, more stringent, national Building Safety Regulator, currently being devised by the Health and Safety Executive, who will be responsible for implementing, enforcing and overseeing safety in all multi-occupied residential buildings over 18m (or 6 storeys). Importantly, the Building Safety Bill will also provide for the ability to amend the scope in the future, if deemed justified.
In my last editorial piece for Housing Association I wrote about the government’s proposed changes to the Building Regulations as they relate to fire and broadly welcomed them (the main concern is that the very sensible measures proposed for high-rise residential buildings should also be applied to their shorter cousins).
But principles are only as good as the way that they are applied, and in terms of fire protection, and of smoke protection in particular, the devil is certainly in the detail. If these systems are to work properly they have to be designed properly, installed properly and maintained properly. Sadly, this does not always happen.
Coadjute, a platform for decentralised workflow and data sharing within the property industry, and several UK housing associations have completed a prototype of Quality Chain, a workflow application aimed at making the construction of housing simpler and safer.
The Coadjute platform uses R3’s Corda distributed ledger technology and designed to unify organisations involved in the development of housing projects from inception through to construction and occupation, Quality Chain captures and tracks a single version of key decisions, documentation and information. It creates the ‘golden thread’ of accountability and transparency identified as necessary by the Hackitt Report.