Current affairs

susceptibility; yet imperfections raise very different fire performance issues in different construction methods, and risk factors can be changed by structure, insulation and cladding. Another source of risk is transferring commercial systems to a residential environment where people sleep and there is no sprinkler requirement. Indeed, a commercial system – rainscreen cladding – was transferred to Grenfell. Our standards assume fires start inside a building,

but changing construction methods can alter that. A void created by a change of energy system, an air gap under a building or a wheelie bin alight in an arson attack can spread fire inside the building. In its laboratory, the FPA recreated a common issue with light TF construction and fire entering buildings via plastic vents and brought that proof to government, which refused regulation review. It was to be hoped, Mr Edwardes commented, that a proper impact analysis of all the risks in timber skyscrapers was done by government before the first one was built.

Safe installations In Mr Townsend’s view, the current focus of the

BREEAM standard on the environmental credentials of building performance needs to adapt to include fire resilience, because ‘sustainability is not only environment and economics; it’s about people and all of those elements coming together’. Greater urbanisation and increasing city populations will have a ‘huge impact’ on fire response, and therefore fire resilience, the impact of fire from an environmental perspective and ease of firefighting should be taken into account. He suggested opening a conversation with the FPA about bringing fire into BRE standards, to which Mr O’Neill warmly responded.

Resilience fundamentals

George Edwardes of the FPA explained how building resilience for fire has been lost due to deregulation narrowing the goal to life safety only, and to modern skyscrapers being built of different construction materials. Fire engineering potentially contributed too by reducing or removing sprinklers, compartmentation, firebreak façades and firefighter shafts. While BS 7974-8 now extends the roles of fire engineers to include business resilience, large fires in heritage sites, schools and warehouses ‘where noone died’ have largely failed to persuade government that more needs to be done. Business tends to be tuned into continuity planning, but public service providers and home owners are often unaware of the issues interruption of services could cause them, or struggle financially to factor them in. He ran through other risks. Testing is done in ‘the perfect configuration’, with no consideration for

50 FEBRUARY 2019

Paul Collins of Certsure talked next about electrical safety, and the importance of understanding how an MMC property is constructed and putting it back together correctly when a service has been installed or altered. Born out of Electrical Safety First (ESF) and the Electrical Contractors’ Association, Certsure provides certification across building services, including BAFE third party certification for fire alarms and other fire sector organisations. Its training and ESF best practice guides also raise awareness of electrical safety issues. Before going on site, electricians and other

tradespeople should discuss with the designer and client what construction materials and building techniques are used, then select their products and equipment accordingly. They must comply with BS 7671, the IET wiring regulation for electrical installation, the 2019 edition of which has 2,000 amendments due to changes in technology and electrical safety principles. BS 7671 has become more focused on the fire safety of installations in the last five years, for example to prevent wiring systems collapsing prematurely in a fire. There has also been a move away from using plastic clips, and arc wall and surge protection devices are now being used in the UK. Manufacturers’ instructions must be carefully heeded to prevent electrical equipment causing a fire hazard. Basic on site fire safety considerations include the positioning of electrical sockets and switches, ensuring terminations and joints are enclosed and sealing penetrations well. ESF’s guide helps electricians achieve fire safety when installing access in walls – when to put intumescent strips or seals around penetrations, checking penetration around cables, speakers, wall lights and ventilation equipment in the ceiling or built fabric (the Association for Specialist Fire Protection also produces guidance on sealing holes).

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