Opening the door to complete compliance

Marcus Parnham from Profab Access, discusses the importance of bi-directional testing as one of the main considerations that social landlords should address when updating riser doors to ensure compliance with the latest building regulations

Housing Management and Maintenance’s recent ‘Approach to Fire Safety in Social Housing’ research project discovered that proof of compliance via test evidence and certification – in addition to independent fire testing – were the two most important factors for social housing providers when specifying fire-rated riser doors for retrofit applications. However, the research concerningly found that bi-directional testing was only the sixth most important factor.

The Building Safety Act 2022 has provided the construction industry with the foundation for a new building regime that places residents’ safety at its centre. As part of this, the Building Safety Regulator, National Regulator for Construction Products, and New Homes Ombudsman, have each been formed to oversee the safety and standards of all buildings, enforce a more effective regulatory regime for construction products, and enable owners of new build homes to raise complaints.

The Construction Products Regulations 2022 identifies the general safety requirements that all construction products being placed on the UK market must meet. These regulations aim to reform the government’s current testing regime to overcome ambiguities regarding present guidelines and regulations. It also aims to secure the initial capture and communication of key product data to achieve a successful golden thread of building information throughout every stage of the design, construction and maintenance stages.

Achieving legal compliance

In this new regulatory landscape, social housing providers have a responsibility to ensure the riser doors installed throughout every property within their housing portfolio are compliant with the latest building regulations and meet the requirements of the Construction Products Regulations 2022.

For older properties with ageing riser doors that may be constructed of timber, this can be achieved by retrofitting steel riser doors that are installed using adjustable frame systems that have been independently bi-directionally tested and certified as an entire doorset to the latest legislative requirements.

Currently, there are differences between the guidelines outlined in BS EN 1634 Standard and Annex B of Approved Document B2. As a result, some riser door manufacturers may only conduct product assessments via a third party, while others may undertake continuous independent product testing and certification. For manufacturers who submit evidence in the form of assessment reports, it may be based upon primary testing that may have been conducted many years ago.

Providing that the manufacturer states nothing has changed in terms of product materials, specifications and manufacturing techniques, assessments will often be renewed for a further five-year period, without any substantial fire performance tests being completed.

By undertaking product testing and certification by an accredited third party, manufacturers can prove they have fulfilled their duty of care in terms of best practice. This can be done by providing evidence that the solution is not only fit for purpose, but goes above and beyond current requirements to offer the highest possible standards in quality, performance and safety.

With regard to riser doors in particular, the extensive testing process will guarantee a manufacturer is superseding the guidance outlined in BS EN 1634 to ensure complete compliance with the legislation defined in Annex B of Approved Document B2.

The benefits of bi-directional testing

Social housing providers should also look at specifying riser doors that have been bi-directionally tested by an independent test centre. Because bi-directional fire testing physically tests the riser doors in both directions, it offers the highest levels of fire safety as it provides the riser door that will withstand exposure to fire and smoke from both directions for the allotted time period. This adequately prevents the spread of fire throughout a multi-storey dwelling; the opportunity for the fire to enter the riser shaft through a riser door located in a corridor and exit through another riser door in a different area or floor of the building is eliminated because both sides of the door have been successfully tested and fire integrity accredited to the required fire door requirements.

However, for manufacturers to completely fulfil their duty of care, and for social housing providers to also ensure they are taking all reasonable measures to ensure the building is compliant, safe and suitable, third party testing must be undertaken for the complete doorset, including each individual component, to successfully futureproof the project.

Successfully retrofitting riser doors

Beyond the testing of the doorset, it is also critical that it is installed into an approved wall construction in a method consistent with the sample originally tested. In practice, the installation process poses a number of risks to the overall fire integrity of a construction through variables such as the packer type and intumescent mastic bead application.

To overcome this potential gap in compliance, professionals should specify steel riser doors that are supplied as standard with adjustable frame systems that enable the frame to be precisely adjusted to the specific dimensions of each structural opening, without the need for traditionally used packers during installation.

Not only does this reduce fitting times by up to 30%, but it also eliminates the need for intumescent mastic bead application as a secondary operation on site, due to utilising a factory applied integral all-in-one smoke, intumescent and acoustic FS1000 seal. This provides fire stopping between the frame and the wall, while also eliminating the reliance of the correct thickness of intumescent mastic bead.

Most importantly, it also ensures the compliance and adequacy of the entire installation, as its fire integrity performance has been sufficiently documented by an independent assessor. As a result, this also subsequently increases the efficiency of installation and removes any potential margins for error.

Marcus Parnham is commercial director at Profab Access