Do industry professionals have confidence in the new building safety bill?

Building Safety Bill

Chrissie joslin

In the latest episode of the Fire Protection Association (FPA) Assembly Point podcast, Chief Executive Officer Jonathan O’Neil OBE explores the introduction of the new Building Safety Bill with three fire safety experts to learn about their opinion on the proposed legislation, and whether they believe it may prevent another tragic event like Grenfell from happening again. IFSEC Global reported on some of the key takeaways from the discussion.

Jonathan ONeill-FPA-20

Jonathan O Neill, FPA

Allan Meek, director of the SCS group, is the first to share his opinion on the death, wondering if the vast amount of money and manpower required to assess buildings already constructed is really viable. Meek draws attention to the problematic nature of law enforcement in residential buildings, which are unlikely to have trained employees responsible for carrying out weekly checks.

Niall Rowan, representative of the Association of Specialist Fire Protection, echoes Allan in his belief that the passage of the bill will be a huge learning curve for the industry, from developers to designers to users. end, everyone will be affected in some way.

The importance of third party certification is a common theme throughout the presentation, all parties arguing that professionals should lobby for its use as an easier way for end users to have confidence in them. engage in business with competent suppliers.

Russ Timpson, founder of the Tall Building Network, points out that the current testing regime for products used on new construction lags behind the number of new products created. While noting that the Building Safety Bill will encourage further digitization of processes such as BIM, Timpson also expresses the displeasure felt by professionals at the government’s decision not to fund the withdrawal ‘properly’. coating of the buildings concerned.

“We need to look at construction and buildings in a much more resilient way,” says Russ. “Current building regulations are all about life safety… many fire engineering buildings that pass their commissioning tests are simply not able to withstand the rigors of wear and tear once passed. “

A question asked by O’Neill, regarding the direction of the new regime, is whether focusing only on the safety of tall buildings, with siding, is the right approach. The three experts agree on the importance of treating coated buildings as a priority. However, industry professionals fear that equally dangerous low-rise buildings will be overlooked.

Rowan draws listeners’ attention to the case of Beachmere Care Home, a low-rise building, destroyed in a fire that swept through the timber-framed structure in 2019. This fixation on treating only high-rise buildings could result in a drop in those dealing with other equally dangerous constructions.

Shortages of people regulating the changes, like fire risk assessors, highlighted in the new legislation, are also of concern to industry experts. Experts draw attention to cases of neglected fire systems and argue that an increase in skills since the Grenfell events is something we have yet to see.

One positive change that the panel hopes the new building safety bill will bring about is a wave of new, well-qualified employees being recruited into the industry.

The importance of fire protection systems being regularly commissioned and maintained is a topic the group discusses at length in the episode. High-rise buildings are extremely complex, firefighters will never have full knowledge of all the buildings they are called to.

On top of that, building managers need to ask, “What would we do if these systems stopped working?” Experts argue that in most cases, important issues like these are not addressed appropriately.

O’Neill concludes the podcast by asking the experts if they think the agreed legislation will in fact have a real effect on preventing fires in high-rise buildings. The consensus of all parties is that, yes, the changes set out in the new Building Safety Bill will help prevent fires in tall buildings. Rowan points out, however, that if the question posed was whether the new Building Safety Bill would prevent another serious fire overall, the answer would be an emphatic no. Timpson ends the discussion by emphasizing the importance of looking to the future after the tragic events at Grenfell. We need, of course, to be responsive and face the present, but we also need to anticipate challenges that the industry might face in the future, such as the transition to a zero carbon lifestyle.

To listen to the full episode, click here.

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