Current affairs

13D and 13R standards, and was revised in 2014 to become a European standard. This was set to take place in February; Mr Chantler said only British and Scandinavian experts wrote it. Consequently, it has errors and has been ‘rushed through’, as only a year was given to revise it. The standard will include a national annexe

is an ‘awful lot more we can do to better define roles and responsibilities’. Competency is key, as competent people ‘think for themselves rather than blindly following guidance’. The ‘brave new world’ will see a new oversight body

in the Joint Competent Authority (JCA), and hopefully a ‘clarity of purpose’ due to being independent, fully representative and recognising existing schemes. Mr Passey also touched on Hackitt ‘gateways’ for construction: planning permission, full plans approval and completion. In future, we can expect a ‘greater deal of oversight’, with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Arup amending plans of work. However, Mr Passey warned that the sector will ‘need to be careful’ regarding fragmentation. Legislative history shows that frameworks have been overly complicated, and, with hopes that legislation will be passed in the next couple of years, the sector needs to be prepared.

Residential sprinklers

The ‘increased demand’ for sprinklers was covered by Nigel Chantler, chair of the Residential Sprinkler Association (RSA), who said that since Grenfell there had been a 40% increase. The sector has ‘always had a problem with keeping up with demand’, and there is ‘clearly a concern when there are not enough sprinkler contractors’, particularly given the ‘abundance of cowboys taking a share’. He covered the main standards that encompass sprinklers and watermist, including BS 12458, BS 8458 and BS 9251, the last specifically governing residential sprinklers. Devised in 2005, it was based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

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including the requirement for maintained isolation valves, which Mr Chantler said was ‘very good’ given how many issues come from systems being turned off in residential blocks. In terms of design basics and categories, those using the standard need to look at which part references their building, and understand design parameters within those sections. On sprinkler and pipe layout, there are plans for buildings in each section, but each different type ‘should be set up in certain ways’, away from lights or cookers. Modelling software can help with this and understanding hydraulic design, pressure and flow. Installation can be affected by faulty design, choosing the wrong category or design parameters, or the wrong sprinkler or pipe layout affecting flows. Residential sprinklers should ‘cover all walls, not just one’, and incorrect or inadequate hydraulic design can compromise installation, Mr Chantler stating that it was ‘amazing how many people don’t think they need to consider this’. Dealing with higher demand, the sector has

expanded year over year ‘for the last couple of decades’, as well as running at 90% capacity for the last ten years. The RSA is ‘actively seeking out’ new companies and offers free help – there is ‘no battle for jobs’ in the sector, but safety is ‘paramount’, with accredited RSA members mentoring new ones. Currently, membership is growing, but the

market is limited by low numbers of designers and installation engineers, while cashflow is a ‘limiting factor we have to work with’, and retentions are difficult. It was important to maintain standards, though installation, design and consultation courses have advantages and disadvantages. Poor levels of knowledge are obviously ‘problematic’, with third party certification important. This can be attained through the Loss Prevention Council Board (LPCB), International Fire Consultants (IFC) and Exova Warringtonfire, with certification ‘stiffened up’ and more complex to attain. The RSA is ‘limited by what we can do’, but aims to ‘ensure integrity’, promoting the need for staff accreditation in terms of qualifications and checking drawings, as well as commissioning and servicing – two stages at which ‘shocking’ findings are discovered. One example was that 13% of isolation valves in one building were switched off, so 13% was not protected, and one tenant’s response was that they were worried their ‘baby would get wet’. The RSA is ‘doing all we can’, including checking accreditation, full sets of drawings, hydraulic calculations, that installation matches design, and witnessing

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