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Understanding of fire safety systems specifications wanes among building control professionals


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Lack of confidence growing in fire safety systems specifications among industry professionals

Building control professionals are expressing a lack of confidence in understanding the specifications for fire safety systems.

Specification Online recently reported that less than a fifth, or 14% to be precise, are confident when it comes to these specifications.

Confusion arises over approved document B fire safety guidelines

Uncertainty continues to surround fire safety guidance as detailed within Approved Document B (ADB), adding confusion for professionals in the construction industry.

An overwhelming 86% of these professionals express concerns about liability when specifying fire safety systems.

This finding is part of new research from Siniat, a leading provider in the industry.

In 2019, changes were made to Approved Document B.

This document now states that fire resistance products and systems must undergo testing according to the most recent EN standards.

Furthermore, any fire resistance assessment has to be evidence-based and conducted by third parties, in alignment with the DIAP or EXAP standard for direct or extended application.

Limited knowledge on fire safety building regulations in the industry

Despite these changes, a survey involving over 200 construction professionals discovered that only 35.7% of those in building control are aware that ADB includes the fire safety building regulations guidelines.

Moreover, 28% are unfamiliar with the extended application standards that should be used for assessing and classifying fire performance systems.

Robert Cridford, a technical manager at Siniat, said: “The updated guidelines in Approved Document B are more burdensome than previous testing standards.”

He continued: “EXAP is more stringent and necessitates comprehensive additional testing, extension and the classification of a manufacturer’s entire portfolio of systems.”

This, Cridford explained, means that manufacturers have the responsibility of providing performance data and testing their products using the most robust standards possible.

He further emphasised that building control professionals should make sure that sufficient fire performance data is provided for any project.

He suggested: “The easiest way to do this, as requested by Approved Document B, while also maintaining a Golden Thread of performance data, is to request third-party classification reports for all systems used for fire safety.”

Cridford noted that Approved Document B allows for some continued use of the 1980s BS476 fire resistance methods.

He added: “In some cases, newer EN standards don’t cover every eventuality, so reverting back might be the last resort, but for partitions, and many other areas, full EN testing and classification is now available.”

Cridford’s final message was that the industry cannot afford mistakes and must work together to ensure that all are building to the highest standards.

He concluded: “This is the only way we, as an industry, can adhere to the most current legislation, prevent liability issues and most importantly, ensure the safety of the people who will inhabit and work in the buildings we build.”

Since 2019, Siniat has invested heavily in gaining third-party EXAP classifications for 700 of its partitions.

These official third-party reports have been included as standard in project specification packs since February 2023.

For more information on Siniat’s third-party classifications, please visit their official website.

Why is this important?

This news is crucial as it highlights an industry-wide issue that could potentially impact fire safety in buildings.

Building control professionals play a critical role in ensuring safety standards, and their lack of confidence in fire safety systems specifications is a cause for concern.

This underlines the need for improved guidelines, training, and resources to assist these professionals in their crucial roles.

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