Marcus Parnham from Profab Access, discusses the importance of specifying fire integrity products to ensure the suitability and safety of a building for its entire lifecycle
Focused on improving the safety of high risk residential buildings, the Building Safety Act will drive significant culture changes throughout every aspect of the industry to facilitate the design and construction of buildings that are not only fit for purpose, but fit for the future.
Key requirements of the legislation include changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in addition to the establishment of the Building Advisory Committee and Industry Competence Committee as part of the Building Safety Regulator, which will have additional powers for the regulation of construction products.
This is summarised throughout the Construction Products Regulations 2022, which 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 concerning ambiguities regarding present guidelines and regulations, in addition to 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.
Overcoming regulatory disparities
For housing and facilities management professionals looking to specify fire-rated riser doors throughout their portfolio, choosing products that are supplied with comprehensive third-party certification can help to safeguard the suitability and safety of each building for its entire lifecycle.
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 is often 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.
However, while the new Construction Products Regulator will have the ability to conduct its own tests of building materials specified in fire critical environments, it will also be the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure
the products they supply now are not only compliant, but suitable for the proposed application.
This responsibility is also shared by the customer, who has a legal obligation to undertake and evidence comprehensive due diligence by ensuring they request demonstration of compliance and subsequent testing reports, not just product assessments, for each building component specified on their project. This will ensure no assumptions are made regarding the suitability and performance of the materials installed to secure the long term suitability and safety of the building for its entire lifecycle.
The importance of third party testing
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, extensive bi-directional testing processes of both sides of the door leaf will guarantee a manufacturer goes above the guidance outlined in BS EN 1634 to ensure complete compliance with the legislation defined in Annex B of Approved Document B2. This consistently provides construction professionals and their clients with the highest levels of protection, certification and compliance.
However, for manufacturers to completely fulfil their duty of care and for customers to also ensure they are taking all reasonable measures to ensure the building is compliant, safe and suitable, third party testing should be undertaken for the complete doorset, including each individual component, to successfully futureproof the project.
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.
Achieving complete compliance
To overcome this potential gap in compliance, housing professionals should look to work with manufacturers that are taking this commitment to third party testing and certification even further through latest advancements in technology and product design, which are providing a revolutionary approach to the installation and maintenance processes.
This includes unique adjustable frames that precisely adjust to the specific dimensions of each structural opening, without the need for traditionally used packers during installation, reducing fitting times by up to 30%.
The requirement for intumescent mastic bead application as a secondary operation on site is also eliminated, as factory applied integral all-in-one smoke, intumescent and acoustic FS1000 seals are utilised to provide fire stopping between the frame and the wall.
While eliminating the reliance of the correct thickness of intumescent mastic bead, it most importantly 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