8 January 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) welcomed the government's response to the Hackitt Review, which accepts the majority of Dame Judith Hackitt's recommendations.
But the association has some concerns about the pace of change, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) stating its intention only to consult on many aspects of the implementation and not until the spring.
It welcomed the Hackitt Review's focus on ensuring that fire safety is considered early in the design process and the introduction of mandatory sign off procedures at the crucial 'gateway points' of: planning permission, permission to build and permission to occupy.
The association also hails the focus on improving levels of competency throughout the construction process and is actively working with the Competency Working Groups established by the construction industry's Competency Steering Group to deliver proposals for an overarching competency framework.
The body also supports MHCLG's aim to improve product test standards and ensure clarity in marketing. It said it is pleased to see government support for third-party certification schemes for products, which it believes are key to improving the quality of fire protection products, but notes that this should extend to installers as well since this is where many of the current problems lie.
The new government guidance for assessments in lieu of tests (sometimes known as desktop studies) prohibits the use of such assessments for external wall systems for all buildings in scope of the combustible materials ban.
It also restricts the use of such assessments in other areas and limits how they are undertaken and by whom, guaranteeing transparency and requiring companies that undertake these tests to do so to high standards.
The requirements are quite restrictive and there are some contradictions in the MHCLG guidance. Consequently, the association will be seeking clarification.
It has been working within the Passive Fire Protection Forum on a revised Guide to Undertaking Assessments in Lieu of Fire Tests, which aims to provide guidance on who is permitted to undertake such assessments, with qualifications, experience and training required being clearly defined. A revised version is expected early in 2019.
ASFP CEO Niall Rowan states: "The association welcomes the government's aim to implement Dame Judith's recommendations as we strongly agreed with her conclusions, many of which reflect what the fire community, including the ASFP, has been saying for some years. We also welcome the announcement of a full review of Approved Document B, which we believe is long overdue.
"We are pleased to see support for third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and look forward to working with government and other stakeholders to develop minimum standards for such schemes.
"We also welcome the tightening of the qualifications, experience and training required of those who will undertake assessments in lieu of tests, but will seek clarification as to the scope, particularly for non-building envelope related products.
"We understand the recommendations of the Hackitt Review were detailed and wide-ranging, since they called for a complete overhaul of the building regulatory system. We look forward to working with government and other stakeholders to achieve the extensive and lasting culture change necessary to ensure the safety of our existing and future built environment."