SCA submits proposals to Hackitt review

SCA submits proposals to Hackitt review

THE SMOKE Control Association (SCAA) submitted its proposals to ‘improve smoke control guidelines’ in the building regulations to Dame Judith Hackitt’s review.

The review of building regulations and fire safety undertaken by Dame Judith Hackitt saw the interim report become the first part of the investigation, begun last year in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire. The interim report found that a ‘universal shift in culture’ is needed to rebuild trust ‘among residents of high-rise buildings’.

This is also required to ‘significantly improve the way that fire safety is assured’, and the report calls on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to ‘come together’ to address ‘shortcomings’. Findings so far include that a ‘culture change is required’, with industry taking greater responsibility ‘for what is built’, with this change needing to ‘start now’.

In turn, the report found that the current system for ensuring fire safety in high rise buildings is ‘not fit for purpose’, while finally a ‘clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to, must be created’. Earlier this year, Dame Judith hosted a meeting to ‘inform the next phase’, which saw around 50 industry figures meeting and committing to ‘creating a new system that will work effectively and coherently’.

Working groups were established to ‘develop innovative solutions’ in a series of key areas that would inform the review. The government most recently reported she has ‘heard advice’ from the chairs of each group, including sub groups formed around procurement and the golden thread. These include design, construction and refurbishment; occupation and maintenance; products; competency; residents’ voices; and regulation and guidance.

The Fire Industry Association (FIA) reported on the SCA’s proposal to the review, with the SCA stating that it ‘fully supports’ the review and ‘welcomed’ the interim report, noting that as an association ‘representing companies and consultants across the smoke control sector’, it has a ‘history of publishing well-respected guides’, and is ‘ideally positioned to offer expertise and guidance to the independent review team’.

Its proposals included that there should be ‘more prescription of performance requirements for smoke control installations’, and that the guidance ‘should offer minimum objective-based requirements on a sliding scale, depending on the type of building and the risk presented’. In turn, recommendations ‘focused on ensuring systems and installations’ should be ‘designed and installed in a competent manner, with competency schemes more actively encouraged’.

Another was that the guidance ‘should have clearly prescribed references to product standards such as the EN12101 suite’, so that equipment installed is ‘tested and certified as fit for the purpose intended’. Architects, building owners and contractors ‘should not be permitted to trade off fire and smoke performance for aesthetics or commercial gain’.

Where a fire engineer or similar professional has been employed ‘to design a strategy or blueprint for a building’, they should be ‘retained and engaged for the duration of the project’, ensuring that the ‘installation and the interactions between the various systems is fully realised’. Finally, the guidance should ‘clearly reference the most applicable standards that are appropriate to the design of the system’, whether British Standards or ‘industry best practice documents’.

On this note, the SCA points out that levels of competence ‘should be clearly defined to ensure that designers, installers, commissioning engineers and maintenance contractors have suitable knowledge and training to deliver fully functioning life safety smoke control systems’. The SCA added that its previous recommendations have been included in the BS 9991 and BS 9999 standards.

David Mowatt, chairman of the SCA, commented that he was ‘hopeful’ that key aspects of the regulations ‘will be addressed and improved during its redrafting’, adding: ‘This review represents a unique opportunity to tackle critical flaws in Approved Document B and make vital changes that will be felt throughout the industry, offering clearer guidance and improving safety across the board.’