Fire Engineers discuss fire risk appraisal of external wall construction


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Organised collaboratively between the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), an event exploring PAS 9980 was organised for fire safety professionals to increase their understanding and share knowledge of the standard featured experts from across the fire safety sector.

The conference was opened by Dame Judith Hackitt explaining the motivations behind PAS 9980 and how it will help deliver a more risk proportionate approach to life safety issues.

This was followed by a session led by Steve Daws and Neal Butterworth who were part of the standard’s authoring team and provided insights into its development, reiterating that PAS 9980 provides confidence to competent assessors that they are working within a framework and gives legitimacy to them acting proportionately and highlighting that training on the use of PAS 9980 could develop as the standard is used more often and lessons are learned.

The remainder of the day featured case studies from a series of industry specialists who shared real-world application of PAS 9980.

the IFE said that the key message which echoed throughout focused on PAS 9980 helping to move away from a simplistic view that combustible cladding equals high risk which equals a need for replacement and removal of material. Instead, assessors should be looking at systems as a whole, weighing up different factors and taking a proportionate view. Panellists were also clear that not all buildings will need a Fire Risk Appraisal of the External Wall (FRAEW) where the external wall system is inherently or demonstrably low risk and some buildings may only need a basic assessment.

The event discussion with fire engineer representatives commenting that reports in line with PAS 9980 methodology may vary in length and detail depending on circumstances, and that there are no plans for a pro forma.

Discussions concluded that crucially reports must be clear for Responsible Persons to understand the risks so a decision on actions can be made accordingly. This may include suggestions of alternative fire mitigation actions that could be taken to make the building safer that are not needed immediately to make the risk tolerable.

Peter Wilkinson, IFE Technical Director, said: “We were delighted to work on this event with DLUHC and RICS and it was an incredibly popular topic with the event selling out in no time at all. The standard gives more clarity and consistency to how the rules should be applied and a clear framework within which professionals can operate with more confidence, and it was great to explore this in more detail at the event and hear first-hand experience of using it from sector experts.”

Gary Strong, RICS said: “We welcome the publication of PAS 9980, which we were involved in the development of, and for the first time a consistent methodology. Time will tell over the next two years how it gains adoption in the market, and I do hope it develops naturally into a full BS standard. In the meantime, sharing experiences and knowledge in its application is essential.”

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