construction

We re often dealing with decades of neglect

With Fire Door Safety Week kicking off next week, IFSEC Global caught up with the campaign s spokesperson to find out how the Grenfell tragedy has affected the campaign. Also technical manager of the British Woodworking Federation, Hannah Mansell reflects on the campaign s growth, message and plans, the temptation for cutting corners in cash-strapped times, the need for coordination across the supply chain and the challenge of keeping fire safety on the media and government agenda long after the charred remnants of Grenfell Tower are demolished in 2018. Hannah also heads up the BWF s stair and BWF-CERTIFIRE schemes.

IFSEC Global: You ve been growing rapidly year on year? What do you think the reasons are? Hannah Mansell: We think it s probably about simplicity. Fire doors are technically complex products and people overlook them for that fact; they re simply not on people s radar. So our job is to get out there and keep the message simple. What they need to know is simple. Your fire doors need to be properly tested and made, maintained, and of course, not left open. Support for the campaign is wide, in all areas of fire safety. Although our message is fire doors, we develop resources and guidance for many different sectors, whether it s the responsible person, the construction industry, fire risk assessors, or tenants and users.

Each campaign has a legacy that we carry on the next year. So for instance last year, we were already focusing on shared accommodation and the rental sector. We realised our work wasn t done in that sector, which has obviously been highlighted by what s happened in the last three months. Since the tragedy there s been a high influx of new supporters in the sector. Councils have come on massively this year, housing associations, charities, landlord associations To be fair the landlord associations have always been quite good supporters. The value engineering of specification, when someone says I can cut a few corners and save you a few quid , is a really big problem And the fire brigades as well. We worked closely with London Fire Brigade last year, and this year they re doing more and going even further. All our resources can be taken and rolled out into any particular organisation or campaign. We ve made a new fire door safety test film (see below).

The last film we made, maybe five or six years ago, had massive traction. The new film is a bit more contemporary, focused on issues we commonly see on fire doors in common areas and with flat front doors doors without seals, doors without proper closers We talk about things like smoke seals and intumescent seals, but a lot of people don t know what they look like. embedded content Also our five-step check, which we also included in the film visually shows what you need to look for, and if you have any concerns, talk to your landlord or building owner. If you still have concerns, the next step is to talk to your local fire brigade who can come out and audit your building. I think in some sectors people have woken up to fire door safety, but it s an ongoing thing. People forget quite quickly. It may not be long until we re disregarding fire safety again. IG: Nature of the beast, really. Easy to get complacent when fire is such a rare thing.

Any other reasons why there are apparently so many inadequate fire doors? HM: We re not dealing with issues that have arisen in these buildings in the last 3-5 years; we re often dealing with decades of neglect of both fire doors and other fire safety systems and elements, with no one taking enough notice of them, these issues and accountability for them dropping out of sight of these responsible. We did some research a few years ago and one of the questions was: What do you think about your fire doors? A deafening silence came back. People were walking past and through them every day and not thinking about their importance. So a lot of our campaign is about outlining the steps: here s your fire door, next step is how to check it, next step is how to report it, here s how to maintain it etc. With the force of people coming together you can get change, but too much of the fire sector has worked in siloes The value engineering of specification, when someone says I can cut a few corners and save you a few quid , is a really big problem. Specification is broken, certification invalidated and there s no proof that the product will work. You can have someone offering to bang in a door like they would fit any old door, not realising that the installation of a fire door is as critical as the product itself.

People think a fire door is just like any other door. In the early days, when I first got into fire doors and was doing a lot of research and development and testing, I was surprised how the tiniest of details can have a massive impact. For instance, an excessive gap around the door or forgotten intumescent protection or seals how much is that going to affect performance during the fire? You d be surprised. In part of the fire door film we ve made this year, we ve set up a correctly fitted door versus one that s got some issues that I commonly find on site. But the bad door looks exactly the same from the outside. It s all about those tiny details compatible components, the frame, the installation etc. Even with a perfect product, installed correctly, if it s not maintained effectively, and it s not closing against its frame or if it gets wedged open etc When the time comes it s just not going to work. Of course, if it s wedged open, there s no barrier to even delay the fire.

Fire doors are also in your face. If I go to a building and see that they have shoddy fire doors, it s a pretty good indicator for me that whoever is responsible for the fire safety of the building isn t taking their responsibility seriously. Interesting that you mentioned value engineering, because cash-strapped councils are being asked to upgrade fire safety in social housing with no extra funding from government HM: I think what they have to consider is that in some cases they are looking at having to pay for decades worth of neglect. Concerns about a wide range of passive fire safety issues including fire doors have been reported for years, in all types of buildings, both public and private sector, you can look back over meeting minutes 10-15 years ago when these issues were being raised. There needs to be a long-term holistic plan. It can t just be completing one task or dealing with one element of fire safety, then it s over and dealt with and forgotten about. The risk profile of buildings is constantly changing. In some sectors there s a realisation about that. But in other sectors We got this report in from one of our BWF members.

They had refused to supply a contract and product for a large TMO for fire door upgrades because the customer wanted to break specification and didn t give a monkeys about it. That s why we need to keep up the pace of not just this campaign but the other campaigns and organisations that we work with, like the Fire Kills campaign. That s maybe what people like about the campaign: we don t make it exclusive. It doesn t matter if you re specifically into fire doors or just someone who wants to support the campaign there s something for everyone in there. With the force of people coming together you can get change, but too much of the fire sector has worked in siloes. A holistic approach might get change. Coupled of course with massive budget cuts I could give you a list as long as my arm of all the factors explaining why we sit here wondering how such a horrific thing could have happened. embedded content IG: Are there many instances where you could remedy a fire-door s deficiencies rather than having to replace the fire door altogether? HM: Lots of people get worried that they ll have to buy a new fire door.

But regular inspection and maintenance help to keep them in good working order. You can replace or adjust components, fix things before they became a major problem. Don t get me wrong, there are limitations. A door can be in such a state of disrepair that you can t fix it. That s why it comes back to having a thorough and robust maintenance regime to make sure you do enough to fix problems before they turn into something irretrievable. A fire door fitted with components suitable for a domestic setting isn t going to last long in the communal corridor of a school There are qualified fire door inspectors who can inspect a door, look at every element the frame, the installation, the ironmongery, the glazing, the door leaf, the seals, the gaps and notify the responsible person of improvements needed. One of our colleagues in the ironmongery industry did a specification for a hospital years ago. Usually hospital fire doors get battered; they can be used thousands of times a day. Twenty-six years later, because specifications for that environment and users were right, and they are regularly inspected, these doors are still going strong they would do their job in a fire.

If you fit a fire door that s designed and fitted with components suitable for a domestic setting into a communal corridor of a school, it not going to last very long. That s why the specification is so critical. Lots of people don t think about the whole supply chain; it s I ve done my bit, pass it onto the next person. It s a chain of responsibility. Fire doors are not the most interesting dinner party topic, but they play such an important role especially in buildings because of complex design, the specific needs of occupants, or if it s difficult to evacuate quickly and there is a stay-put fire plan. You need fire and smoke control doors up and down corridors and stairwells. It protects the means of escape and route for firefighters to get into the building. It includes flat front doors as well. You will also find fire doors in other parts of the building, and sometimes inside individual dwellings, depending on the layout and building types, as well as a number of other factors.

IG: Do you think the regulations themselves need clarification or strengthening? HM: My real day job is not just doing the fire door safety campaign. I m the technical manager of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF). Our members make and certificate about 2.5 million timber fire doors every year, but our organisation frequently provides technical guidance about a wide variety of timber construction products and how they relate to building regulations and building control. People often don t understand how they work; it can be a minefield. I know we re going to have a review of building regulations, but it s been on the agenda for many years and it s far, far overdue. And I m not just talking about Approved Document B. We ve got building regs that apply to new buildings, regs about refurbishment or change of use, about surrounding fire risk assessments, about the signing off of work process, the whole regulatory reform order, which came in 10 years ago and changed the responsibility and process of signing off compliance. We could sit here in five years time and have a very similar discussion unless people take heed of the scale of the problem now These are all bits of regulation that need to work together, so it s about an upgrade of regulations throughout the chain.

I don t think we can just be appeased with just an approved document review. I think when the public are calling for a building regulation review, they re talking about the whole process, not just documents that talk about fire safety in high rise buildings. One thing really highlighted over the last few weeks is how many different parties get involved in the refurb, design, specifications, supply of products, construction, the signing off of buildings. There needs to be much more clarity as to how that chain works. In the wake of Grenfell, the amount of fire safety issues reported in other buildings has been huge, not just cladding. For instance, the Camden evacuation was because a thousand fire doors were missing. When it comes to enforcing against large organisations, transparency is sometimes the issue when it goes through the courts. Who is the responsible person? And in an enormous organisation with a massive housing stock, how detached are they from the scale or severity of fire safety issues in their buildings?

We live differently to how we lived even 10-15 years ago. Elderly people are much more likely to stay in their homes longer, more people live in high rise buildings, there are people with a wide variety of additional needs who may be more vulnerable to a fire in their building. The regulations have to reflect that, and not just for the benefit of building more homes quickly, of questionable quality. IG: Has Grenfell changed your message in any way given the greater media and public awareness of the issue? HM: Fire Door Safety Week campaign has been going formally for five years . We re as determined as we ever were, to carry on promoting our campaign and working with other campaigns and initiatives in these areas. Each year, stepping up and building on what we ve done before, until we get real and lasting change. I read an opinion piece that said it will take generations to get over Grenfell. We ve got to keep this right up there in the media so we don t have a repeat.

We can t let it be swept under the carpet or not acted upon in the fullest manner. It s like that poem isn t it: For want of a nail, the Kingdom was lost . Your fire doors are almost your nails, as it were. All these little fire safety problems adding up together to create the perfect fire storm. We need a new way of looking at fire safety. Otherwise we ll do what we always did: an investigation and an inquest, and get what we always got, excuses why it can t improve, and then sort of forget about it. And the worst thing is we could sit here in five years time and have a very similar discussion unless people take heed of the scale of the problem now. There is the chance to really make building safe for generations to come. IFSEC Global is proud to support Fire Door Safety Week, which runs from 25 September to 1 October.

You can pledge your support for the campaign here, and by tweeting under the hashtag #FireDoorSafetyWeek and sharing or using the wealth of resources found in the campaign s toolkit.

Related Topics Watch: The consequences of badly specified and fitted fire doors plus 5 tips for getting it right Fire-door safety campaigners renew calls for public register of responsible persons Willmott Dixon issues fire door guidance to 3,000 staff thanks to Fire Door Safety Week

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Bull Products to give Fire 360 customers detailed risk report

Construction industry Users of the Fire 360 service from Bull Products will now receive a detailed risk report that explores potential risks and hazards ahead of work on construction sites. Launched at the tail end of 2016, fire 360 is a 12-step plan designed to equip companies with an comprehensive fire strategy. The report considers the risks associated with a construction site s location, whether it s a listed building, number of storeys, and the level of overnight security.

Based on data gathered by the Fire Protection Association s Business and Property Protection Portal, the 20-page report assesses the risk of fires and floods, as well as the average costs to businesses if those risks are realised. The report also covers average response time for emergency services to arrive on site and prevalence of robberies and incidents entailing criminal damage within that particular postcode. Product guidelines are included to help businesses ensure they have the correct equipment on site. Before work is carried out on any construction site, there are a number of potential risks which can affect the health and safety of workers, and the general public, said Bradley Markham, director at Bull Products. Our risk report system will ensure companies have the right fire protection equipment in place so that they are prepared for any given situation during the construction phase.

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Architect says sprinkler installation at Glasgow Hospital was used as an excuse to flout other buildings standards

Cost-cutting Credit: George Allison under CC BY-SA 4.0 An architect who helped design Scotland s largest hospital has warned that corners were cut in the construction of the 14-storey complex in the name of keeping down costs. Robert Menzies, now retired from his role at BMJ Architects, believes the installation of a sprinkler system in Glasgow s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital has been used as an excuse for flouting other building standards. He says the complex, which includes a children s hospital, adult hospital and laboratory, lacks exit stairways and exceeds size limits on fire compartments, while a hose-reel for firefighters is too short and some fire doors open in the wrong direction.

Insulation panels used in Grenfell tower are also fitted to the hospital, although the health board has insisted they are safe. Menzies drew up the hospital s exemplar design which sets criteria that firms bidding for construction projects must meet as senior healthcare architect at BMJ. He says the construction contract was given to London-based Brookfield Multiplex in defiance of architects recommendations that a bid from Balfour Beatty be accepted on the basis of cost , he suspects. They ve then made the stairs the minimum width possible. Surely you d want to make them wider to compensate for not having enough stairways in the first place? Robert Menzies, BMJ Architect We thought we would provide a monitoring role right through to completion of the actual build, in terms of where this is compliant and where it s not, so we were surprised to be told we were no longer required, Menzies told the Glasgow Evening Times. I had read the winning bidder s fire strategy and it concerned me a lot. It was almost like they the health board didn t want us around asking questions. It was very odd.

Lack of stairways On the lack of stairways he said: They are supposed to provide three stairways minimum as an emergency escape route if there are more than 100 people per storey. In the adult tower, there are 112 patients per floor but only two stairways. They are only slightly over, but that s just the patients there are also staff and visitors. They ve then made the stairs the minimum width possible. Surely you d want to make them wider to compensate for not having enough stairways in the first place? At least one fire compartment was too big in the original designs, says Menzies at least for the limit prescribed in Scotland, set at 1500sq, whereas it did meet the 2,000sq metre limit set in England. Pointing to the high failure rate of sprinklers in US hospitals 20% of which have had fires where sprinklers failed Menzies told the Glasgow Evening Times that an over-reliance on sprinklers was foolish. If you re putting sprinklers in and you re saying a fire will never occur as a consequence, then why do you need escape stairs? Why do you need anything?

But what happens when the sprinkler system fails? They re not 100%. A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde did not dispute the veracity of Menzies claims, but pointed out that all buildings in the hospital complex were certified as compliant with Scottish fire safety and building standards by Glasgow City Council in 2015. Health Facilities Scotland also endorsed the hospital s fire strategy, he said. He said: It is important that everyone working in and coming to these world class facilities for healthcare know that we take fire safety extremely seriously and that there are heat/smoke detection and early warning fire alarm systems combined with automatic fire suppression sprinkler systems fitted in all areas. The hospitals are further protected by designated fire-fighting and fire evacuation lifts, as well as multiple fire escape stairwells. A spokeswoman for Brookfield Multiplex said: The final design met all the requirements of the building regulations and was signed off progressively through construction by Glasgow City Council s building control office.

Construction consultancy firm Currie & Brown has been appointed to verify the hospitals construction and certification process following the Grenfell blaze.

Are UK building regulations fit for purpose?

FSF launches Approved Document B survey

Survey The Fire Sector Federation (FSF) has intensified its long-running campaign for a review of Approved Document B in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. It recently published a brochure that cites changes in building design, practice and materials since the framework was last reviewed more than a decade ago in 2006 that render the current document not fit for purpose. Now the FSF is inviting the industry to share its views on the topic by completing a survey.

The survey, which was already in the pipeline before the Grenfell tragedy unfolded, has been put together with the help of NBS Research, an independent research organisation. In canvassing the views of professionals across the supply chain, the FSF hopes to gauge the degree to which the practical guidance in Approved Document B meets the requirements of fire protection in the construction industry in 2017. The survey findings will form the basis of a submission to the DCLG to help those responsible for making sure building regulations and Approved Document B are as effective as possible.

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Construction fire safety: Bull Products upgrades first-responder stations with height-extending detector

Bull Products, which specialises in developing life-safety equipment for the construction industry, says its revamped first-responder stations will cut costs for contractors and construction companies. Based on its on-site investigations into the effectiveness of existing processes and equipment, Bull Products has added an optional, height-extending pole to the stations. Designed to attach to the back of the First Responder Stations, the addition makes detection installation quicker and reduces costs, as wireless detectors are not required, says the company.

The pole can be raised to a height of over three metres with a detector attached to the top, and it can be adjusted to position the detector at any height between 2.1 and 3.2 metres from the ground. The stations, which incorporate fire extinguishers and a Cygnus fire alarm, are fully mobile. In contrast, conventional heat and smoke detectors are fixed to ceilings or walls using ladders or podiums, creating a safety risk for those installing them. Matthew Trigwell, Sales Director at Bull Products, said: We re continuously looking at ways to solve issues within the industry and improve our products to make lives easier for construction companies and M & E contractors. This height-extending detector will not only improve safety for our customers on construction sites but it will provide a time-saving and efficient solution. This new feature comes with a heat detector as default, but smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also available should these be required. The detector is hard wired to the alarm through a spare input and is only compatible with the following Cygnus alarms, CYG2 and CYG2/85DB. Free download: The video surveillance report 2017 Sponsored by IDIS The Video Surveillance Report 2017 covers all things video surveillance based on a poll of hundreds of security professionals. Specifically looking at topics such as open platforms, 4K, low-light cameras, video analytics, warranties and this year due to the growing threat posed, the cybersecurity landscape.

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ASFP takes first steps with RIBA-based Work Plan for Fire Protection

Niall Rowan CEO of ASFP, introduced a FIREX panel session about improving passive fire protection, recapping the progress made by the ASFP panel of experts with the development of an overarching Construction Strategy. Since its inception at FIREX in 2016, the panel has convened at a number of meetings and a roundtable to improve collaboration across silos in the construction industry with the aim of engaging fire safety engineers at an earlier stage in the construction process. This has resulted in the first steps being taken to deliver a RIBA-based Work Plan for Fire Protection to combat the fragmentation with regard to best practice in the world of construction, from building contractors to insurers.

The ASFP panel of experts was set up to include stakeholders from across the construction industry and represents the views of the following groups: architects/designers, criminal regulatory lawyers, fire engineers, tier-one contractors, passive fire protection manufacturers, passive fire protection insurers, the PFP trade body, fire service, building control, insurers, building owners. A number of these experts were present at the panel session to discuss the new Work Plan and answer questions from the audience. Present: Paul Bussey architect RIBA committee; Damian Ward Technical Compliance manager; Colin Wells Aviva; Glenn Horton consultant fire engineer; David O Reilly ASFP Ireland; Carl Atkinson Chairman.

7 Work Stages of Fire Management Architect Paul Bussey (AHMM) introduced the Fire Risk Identification, Evaluation, Reduction & Communication Process by RIBA work stages the panel has been working on. This new work plan proposal investigates the possibilities for introducing a sign off process as construction progresses, with all information reaching the end-user to support adequate fire risk management. The RIBA work stages method was chosen to identify each of the stakeholders and to define their roles and responsibilities at each stage, specifying who would contribute, inspect and sign off. Bussey explained: Building regulations do not have a good process throughout architects are trained as general practitioners and cannot be expected to be expert in every field. So we are trying to work with other specialists and bring them in the process at the right time The RIBA work plan methodology is used by UK architects to manage and plan the building design and construction process. Bussey introduced the 7 work stages of fire management that have been added to this: (Stage 0-1) Fire Risk? L,M,H; (Stage 2-3) Fire Design Strategy; (Stage 3-4) Fire Design & CDM; (Stage 3-4) Contractor Fire Plan; (Stage 4-5) Specialist Fire Input; (Stage 6-7) Fire Management. As Bussey explained, Stages 2&3 are the early stages in which big decisions need to be made about risk assessment. As architects progress through the stages, more detailed performance criteria are required and collaboration with technical fire experts and engineers becomes key.

At the early stages obtaining the right information about interfaces between one material and the other is an important aspect of the fire risk assessment, but details about requirements are often lacking. Simplifying the whole process will make it clear at the tendering stage how far the design has been developed. The next hurdle to overcome is the prescriptive stage: here a lot of specialist input is required and the input has to be coherently integrated. In the Fire Management stage the project is handed over to the client who has to start maintaining the building and has to know what exactly has to be maintained. The panel is working towards a document that captures all of this process with details about installation and certification resulting in a manual that can be used to check the process. The aim is to encapsulate key information and identify the role of each of the stakeholders for each of the RIBA work stages. Currently a discussion is underway to see whether inspection sign-off should be a regulatory sign-off as it is in Ireland. Ensuring there is a paper trail of sign-offs is an important part of the improvement proposed. But who exactly is responsible for carrying these out has not yet been established.

David O Reilly explained that the current code of practice in Ireland gives the owner paramount responsibility for appointing competent designers, certifiers and contractors. These assigned certifiers must be registered architects, chartered engineers or chartered surveyors. Colin Wells (Aviva) also pointed out that insurers would like to be involved at the earliest possible stage of design. However, this can often result in a discussion about costs and a discussion about risk needs to be had at this stage to assess whether the building should itself be protected once everyone is out of the building. During the Q&A the question was raised why no one from local government was represented on the panel. However Rowan explained that a representative from a local authority is on the panel but could not attend the session, noting that they are one of the most important stakeholders for sign off. Another point of interest raised was the problem that approved inspectors are paid by the client and that this can cause a conflict of interest. The panel acknowledged this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Professional standards need to be raised and attitudes need to change to ensure standards.

The work stage plan formalises the process. It explains a very complicated system and perhaps a plan of work is also required for refurbishments. But it needs to be simplified into a usable document. Also more complex building will require more complex solutions but ultimately it is important to ensure collaborating on every project is coordinated. The challenge is to get the right people involved at the right time. Visit FIREX International for cutting-edge solutions, essential knowledge and the ability to grow your business by getting direct access to the whole fire safety industry. It is the perfect place to get your product in front of thousands of buyers, across a multitude of featured areas.

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