UK should replicate Ireland’s building control regime: ASFP workshop

The UK government should emulate the building control regime across the Irish Sea to improve fire protection standards during the design and construction process, according to The Association for Specialist Fire Protection’s (ASFP) Ireland Operations Officer.

During recent a Passive Fire Protection Workshop by the ASFP, David O’Reilly said the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) offered an effective template for fostering transparency and accountability. BCAR mandates a rigorous inspection process, defines the role of professionals throughout, requires that certificates are signed off at various stages by assigned certifiers and ancillary certifiers and requires designers to sign off the completed building.

The workshop, which took place at the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) AGM and Conference in Brighton on 17 July, examined how passive fire protection is currently delivered and how it might be improved. Discussions were framed around four key pillars of the building lifecycle: design and specification; installation; inspection and certification; and ongoing management/maintenance.

ASFP CEO Niall Rowan championed the role of passive fire protection in saving lives and protecting firefighters and property, before reviewing the post-Grenfell regulatory environment and various government consultations.

There was agreement that fire safety should be considered early in the design process. With this in mind, Rowan reported that the ASFP has been working with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on creating a Fire Safety Overlay for the RIBA Plan of Works.

Providing a detailed specification for fire protection at the design stage and a fire schedule throughout construction, the Fire Safety Overlay includes sign-offs as construction progresses, with all information reaching the end-user to support fire risk management. Delegates heard that the Plan of Works should also include an enhanced role for fire engineers.

Concerns were raised about weak enforcement of regulations, with inspections are often absent at crucial stages in the construction process. Audience members also noted that changes to building regulations did nothing to improve fire protection in existing buildings.

Monitoring of the construction process could be enhanced by clarifying what should be inspected and when, making third-party certification of products and installers mandatory and reintroducing the Clerk of Works role.

Installation work could be improved, meanwhile, by setting, and inspecting against, a benchmark for good practice for each project and focusing on improving the competency of installers and maintenance staff.

Noting that lack of a mandatory requirement for installation qualifications, ASFP Head of Training Phil Brownhill said the ASFP and IFE had developed a training course leading to Level 2 and Level 3 IFE qualifications.

It was agreed that there should be mandatory qualifications for installers and inspectors of fire protection products.

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