CALL TO ACTION
Kingspan’s Plan for
For quite some time industry professionals have been calling for a Building Regulations review, believing that the current regulations are inadequate and confusing. Unfortunately, it took the Grenfell tragedy to drive home their shortcomings to the government, and they have now commissioned an urgent assessment. Dame Judith Hackitt is heading this ‘Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’ to look at the issues around efficacy, compliance, and enforcement and the initial findings of this are expected to be provided mid-December 2017 with a complete report by spring 2018.
Immediate Industry Action
The Hackitt Review has included a consultation with various industry bodies, government departments, and the public to look at recommended changes for the future including a more robust regulatory system, not just facades but for all areas of construction. As a result, the construction industry is preparing itself for immediate action following the report being published. It is crucial that we insist on stricter requirements with clearer guidance, to do all we can to protect building occupants in addition to helping to rebuild public confidence on matters of fire safety and building regulation.
With this in mind, and focussing on facades, there are five key changes that will bring better regulation of this crucial aspect of construction:
- Large-scale system testing of all of cladding systems regardless of insulation material
- Standardisation and regulation of Desktop Studies
- Mandatory training for installers
- Enforcement of fire safety throughout design and construction
- More research into smoke from buildings and contents
Façade fire safety is a complicated issue, with many different factors coming into play, such as cavity barriers, fixings used and cavity width, which all have an impact on how the building will react in a real-life fire situation.
Full System Testing
A major concern is that, under the current Building Regulations, ‘non-combustible’ façade insulation products are not required to undergo large-scale testing as part of a system for use over 18 m. If there is one thing we should understand by now, it is that full system testing is essential to better understand the building materials we use, how they are affected by products installed alongside them and, as a result, help to improve the data we have on how all these products behave when installed as part of a specified system.
BS 8414 is the large-scale test that is undertaken to see whether a façade system meets the requirements of BR 135 – it is one of the routes to regulatory compliance. BRE Global now has a register of BR 135 classified external systems that have been tested in accordance with BS 8414 part 1 or 2 on its website. Note that more recent tests will not yet appear on this register.
There are compliant solutions available that are not limited to non-combustible insulation materials, and that provide significant benefits in other aspects of the performance that we need from our buildings. A responsible manufacturer will commit to an ongoing programme of severe testing for its products, to innovation, and to the promotion of best practice to ensure that buildings offer fire safety, energy efficiency and longevity in equal measure.