Building truth

Can modern construction deliver fire safety and resilience, and square with a non combustible future? Jan Wassall writes on a key FPA seminar

this vital question. The reduction of fi re deaths and injuries in England by the fi re and rescue service (FRS) in 1990-2016 led to government complacency, lower investment in FRSs and less scrutiny of Building Regulations (BRs), while the repeal of the Local Acts in 2002 removed the London Building Act, making London in his words ‘the only corporate metropolitan area in the world without any resilience’ in its BRs. In the FPA/RISCAuthority’s Fire Safe Futures


Campaign, concerns presented to the Building Regulations Advisory Committee now form part of the reference material for the Grenfell inquiry. They focused on improving sprinkler protection in warehousing, the appropriateness of BRs given modern methods of construction (MMC) and the sustainability agenda, as well as cladding. ‘Experience showed us that the integrity of MMC was immensely susceptible in terms of its fi re safety properties’, he said, explaining that ‘the internal fi re protection it usually affords is layers of plasterboard and use of fi re stopping padding, with little or no requirement for external fi re spread mitigation’. With practices and products potentially creating

signifi cant risk to the structure, and cladding and insulation bringing much higher combustible

46 FEBRUARY 2019

HAIR AND FPA managing director Jonathan O’Neill set the scene at last September’s seminar, which examined

content, they argued for a ‘fresh eyes’ BR review to support fi re safety in MMC buildings, including the external envelope to prevent fire ingress. Astonishingly, despite no such review in 12 years, that meeting produced no result, ‘then Grenfell happened’. However, Mr O’Neill said the full BR review for fire now expected ‘promises to be the most comprehensive I have ever known’. He reminded those with evidence or comments

to submit them to the consultation, highlighting principles in RISCAuthority’s Design Guide: recognition of resilience; no more sacrifi cial buildings; robust structures; third party certifi ed products and services; and competence in design, installation and inspection. Grenfell looks set to keep fi re in the public eye, but will the government ban on combustible materials for tall buildings be enough? And how will the MMC industry react if it were extended to low rise buildings? He invited presenters in four MMC product areas to comment.

MMC systems

Masonry aircrete Andy Adgar of H&H International described the I-House system now being rolled out on volume house building sites across the UK. Comprising the inner leaves of external cavity walls, intermediate fl oors, lintels and roof trusses, it provides a fast ‘masonry’ build in a

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