IFSJ Exclusive: Setting the standard for compliance with Profab Access

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Marcus Parnham, Commercial Director at Profab Access, explores the implication of The Building Safety Act

The Building Safety Act 2022 presents a new era of accountability for the construction industry that will improve the standards of buildings and secure the safety of people within them, and it comes with implications for professionals responsible for the specification, installation and maintenance of fire-critical building products.   

The Competence Steering Group’s Setting the Bar report aims to achieve a system of competence standards that all those in life-safety-critical disciplines working on higher-risk buildings should adopt, in line with Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future report.

For professionals responsible for the procurement, construction, inspection and maintenance of buildings, these objectives can be achieved in part by specifying and installing building components that are supplied with comprehensive third party certification, which helps to safeguard the suitability and safety of a building for its entire lifecycle.

Currently, some concerns remain in relation to ambiguities regarding guidelines and regulations for the testing of building materials. In relation to fire integrity riser doors for non-residential buildings, there are disparities between the guidelines outlined in BS EN 1634-1:2014+A1:2018 and clause C3 of Approved Document B2.

Where a door leaf is totally symmetrical, Part 1 of BS EN 1634-1:2014+A1:2018 allows for testing from one side only. In contrast, clause C3 of Approved Document B2 stipulates that each side of the door leaf should receive separate test exposure, irrespective of whether the door leaf is symmetrical.

Different manufacturers take different approaches to address this. Some may conduct product assessments via a third party once in the product lifecycle, whilst others may undertake third-party testing of both sides of the door leaf, supported by on going third party certification, to evidence their products are consistently suitable for installation.

While the National Construction Products Regulator will have the ability to conduct its own tests of building materials specified in fire-critical environments, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to guarantee the products they supply are suitable for the proposed application.

It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to guarantee the products they supply are suitable for the proposed application.

However, this responsibility is also shared by the customer. Construction professionals need to make their own decision about how best to obtain assurance as to the performance of fire integrity riser doors. Certainly, third party assessment of performance is a minimum, but a higher degree of confidence can be obtained by specifying products from companies that have undergone third party accreditation and whose building products are supplied with comprehensive certification and test reports on an ongoing, rather than one off, basis. 

Due diligence

By evidencing comprehensive due diligence through the procurement of riser doors that have been bi-directionally tested by a third party and are supplied with ongoing certification and test reports, rather than single product assessments, construction professionals can be confident that no assumptions have been made regarding the suitability and performance of the materials installed, including whether the door set will perform effectively from both directions of exposure. This subsequently ensures the long-term suitability and safety of the building for its entire lifecycle.

One off product assessments alone do not provide continuous surveillance and assurance of consistency and quality.

This is because continuous testing programmes provide continued assurance with regard to the product being supplied, whereas one off product assessments alone do not provide continuous surveillance and assurance of consistency and quality.

This is further reflected in third-party testers’ continued involvement throughout the entire manufacturing process, which helps to ascertain that manufacturers are implementing appropriate measures to maintain manufacturing consistency and that the products tested are genuinely representative of production.

With regard to riser doors in particular, extensive third party bi-directional testing to BS EN 1634-1:2014+A1:2018 of both sides of the door leaf evidences that a manufacturer has gone above the minimum requirements detailed in BS EN 1634 to meet the requirements defined in clause C3 of Approved Document B2.

Professionals should also check that third-party testing has been undertaken for the complete doorset, including each individual component, to successfully validate overall performance.

Beyond the testing of the doorset itself, it is also critical that it is installed into an approved wall construction in a method consistent with the sample originally tested. This reflects points first raised in Dame Hackitt’s review that the fire resistance of a building product should be tested in ‘real-world conditions’, to be certain that all performance figures stated by the manufacturer are factual and representative of the likely performance of the final installation.

By specifying rising doors where both sides of the door leaf have been separately tested by an independent third-party passive fire product certification scheme, any ambiguity is removed, as the certification also states the approved application for each wall construction type, eliminating any requirement for interpretation.

Practical risks

In practice, the installation process of a riser door poses a number of risks to the overall fire integrity of the construction through variables such as the packer type and intumescent mastic bead application.

One solution to this could be by selecting steel riser doors that include adjustable frames with an integral intumescent strip to provide fire stopping between the wall and frame. This not only eliminates the requirement of packers and a dry liner’s reliance on the correct thickness of intumescent mastic bead, but also helps confirm the compliance and adequacy of the entire installation, as its fire integrity performance has been sufficiently documented by an independent assessor. This also subsequently increases the efficiencies of installation and reduces potential margins for error.

By considering the individual elements that forms part of the entire installation and ensuring that the relevant components have undergone the necessary testing and certification processes, professionals can not only streamline the initial design and specification stages, but can also benefit from an extensive digital audit trail that documents compliance and product suitability at every stage of the construction process.

For further information visit profabaccess.com

This article was originally published in the April edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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