Updated: Apr 20, 2021
The fateful Grenfell Tower fire brought to light major issues related to fire safety in the construction industry. Since then, the government has been relentlessly trying to find out the existing fire risks in the industry and deal with them, along with strengthening the current building regulations to ensure the highest level of fire safety standards to prevent future mishaps and increase safety and efficiency in the industry.
From the ban on cladding in the external wall systems of residential buildings over 18m, to the proposal of a building safety regulator and a construction product regulator, as well as the introduction of a golden thread of information to increase transparency and accountability in the industry, there are major changes on the way that are bound to change the way the industry works.
At our latest panel discussion, Nick Haughton of Sapphire Balconies, Nick Coombe of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Chris Taylor of WSP, Scott Sanderson of PRP LLP, Valentina Amoroso of Eckersley O'Callaghan, Andrew Taylor of ASFP and Carlsson Elkins of Sertus answer the most common questions and give their opinion on how fire safety will change the industry in the next few years. Here are the key highlights from the panel discussion:
The Building Risk Review and Commonly Found Fire Safety Hazards
The Building Risk Review (BRR) was funded by the government to inspect 12,000 residential buildings over 18m high in the country. The aim was to assure the residents of high-rise buildings that they were safe, and to gather information to pass on to the building safety regulator in the next few years.
The fire and rescue service found that the major fire safety issue was around the commissioning and maintenance of the fire-fighting facilities. During the tests conducted, it was found that a significant number of firefighting equipment was not working and had not been maintained according to required standards. Additionally, the smoke detection systems on a number of buildings had not been installed or maintained correctly. Some of these systems had not been maintained since their installation, even in 10-15 years.
Blocker of Fire Safety in Buildings
One of the major obstacles to fire safety in buildings is the mindset of the industry. A huge culture change in the industry and greater collaboration from all stakeholders will be necessary to increase accountability and transparency Stakeholders will need to work together with a common goal to ensure the right level of fire safety in order to make buildings safe for every resident. The golden thread of information, product safety regulator and building safety regulator should help greatly in bringing this change of mindset in the industry.
Dealing with the Ban of Laminate Glass on Balconies
According to the latest building regulations, the use of laminate glass on balconies is banned. Industry experts recommend switching to metal alternatives available in the market in case the use of laminate glass remains banned in future. Vertical bars, perforated patterns, punch panel systems are the top recommended alternatives for laminate glass that are compliant with the new regulations for external wall systems.
Sustainability and Fire Safety
Sustainability and fire safety are the two main concerns of the construction industry that will significantly impact the way the industry functions in the coming years. Industry leaders feel that the government and the industry need to have a holistic approach when it comes to fire safety and sustainability.
Buildings need to be built in such a manner that fire safety as well as sustainability goals are met. When it comes to sustainability, multiple factors need to be addressed early on. The design of the building needs to consider the maintenance energy, reduce the thermal bridging and work towards reducing the embodied carbon in the façade. Experts should be involved early on to ensure that both fire safety and sustainability goals are met effectively.
Tune in and learn more from the conversation with our panel of industry experts here.