Current affairs Heat can be an issue with recessed downlighters,

particularly halogen ones, and the ESF guide recommends fire rated luminaires where possible and has a detailed section on installing them, while totally enclosed downlighters also cover the fire safety aspects. Mr Collins showed examples of bad practice: incompetent installations of downlighters, cables not being terminated to the enclosure or passing over the top of light fittings, ‘daisychaining’ extension leads, and inferior standard plugs and adaptors. Due to the large number of consumer unit fires in domestic properties, since January 2016 a dwelling must have non combustible consumer units, he told delegates. Inspections of the installations could be every five

or ten years depending on building type and use. ESF has a website facility for finding product recall details, and thermal imaging cameras can help identify if equipment has any troubling connection points.

BIM and digital

Mike Leonard of the Modern Masonry Alliance gave the final presentation, on BIM and other technological advances. Grenfell happened ‘in London, in the 21st century, on our watch’, because of the desire to improve its insulation and aesthetics. ‘We did that and didn’t think about the other things sufficiently [...] we must think about cause and effect in everything we do’. The ‘golden thread’ is how we manage that detail and, in his view, this applies as much to the digital revolution in construction as to use of non combustible material such as masonry, because ‘if you don’t detail properly at junctions, fire will find a way of spreading’. So we must build appropriately, but the next steps

are embracing technology. ‘For my money it’s about how we manage the data and how we know what’s in that property [...] if interventions have been made, a firefighter needs to know that’. While there is still a long journey ahead in using technology to manage the process of design, build, operate and maintain, at the centre of the design element is BIM, often referred to as ‘CAD on steroids’, which puts that data into a model to see what works, and pre-empt problems. Initially imposed by government on contracts

over £50m in the public sector, he believes BIM will win hearts and minds when people see the value it adds in ensuring a building is built to programme, with the right things in the right places, that works and is maintained. It will take time to fully implement, but other technologies such as remote property monitoring will feed into the process. ‘Building resilience involves water, flooding, indoor air quality and heating, as well as fire, protecting the quality, comfort and sustainability of buildings and the way people live in them’. He predicted the adoption in 50 years’ time, ‘even in domestic housing’, of long term maintenance contracts, akin to energy and phone contracts today: ‘Dovetailing into that is


the connected home and how we manage that.’ Advocating an increase in construction costs to avoid corner cutting and product substitution, and to ‘revive a decimated building control service’, he said government still does not ‘get it’ – Innovate UK is funding ‘a transformation in construction’ by aiming for 33% cheaper and 50% faster builds! While a ‘fabric first’ approach was laudable in high

rises, especially residential buildings, sprinklers and other systems have a mitigating role to play. A house cannot be built purely of non combustible materials, so with mitigation essential against combustible materials, ADB’s revision is critical and better fire testing must really understand what happens in fires. Following the inquiry, prosecutions may follow and make people very risk averse, he suggested, with small and medium practices wanting approved and accredited materials to use with confidence. Mr Leonard added that we must recognise

the potential performance gap when buildings change – Grenfell’s refurbishment being a case in point. Inspection regimes must be enhanced and digitally captured on BIM and other technology. The cladding ban is important, he said, but must be extended to answer Dame Judith’s own question: ‘How do we make safer futures?’ Then,‘when it’s all gone wrong, we’ve got

to enter a building’, so firefighter training needs to equip young firefighters with appropriate knowledge to work effectively, especially given an ageing workforce whose knowledge leaves with them

Jan Wassall is production editor of Fire & Risk Management. For more information, view page 5 FEBRUARY 2019 51

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