While it is an architect’s job to request regulatory and performance information, the manufacturer’s job should be to provide essential classification reports - even when the architect doesn’t ask for them
Architects have long been vocal about their support for the introduction of tighter building regulations, particularly when it comes to fire safety.
In fact, ahead of the updates to Approved Document B in 2019, the RIBA submitted detailed evidence and a number of key recommendations to the government’s technical consultation, urging for tighter restrictions to ensure that the 'stay put' policy could be relied upon.
While not all of the recommendations were actioned, the government did respond with tightened guidance and architects hold a lot of responsibility to ensure that all elements of a building are complaint with these changes.
However, since then, the amendments to building regulations have created a lot of uncertainty around the law and best practice in the industry.
In fact, our recent research revealed that over half (51.3 per cent) of architects say they are constantly worried about liability when specifying systems for fire safety.
On top of this, our research on over 200 construction professionals found that only a third (34 per cent) know that Approved Document B contains the guidelines for fire safety building regulations.
These statistics show that, despite many in the industry supporting the need for tighter regulations, the literature produced has been unclear and ambiguous, meaning architects are often left filling in the gaps.
Meeting fire safety standards is not a responsibility solely held by architects. In fact, the whole supply chain should be educating themselves and updating practice to ensure full compliance.
This should undoubtedly start with the manufacturer. After all, we provide the materials that will be used in our buildings.
Manufacturers of systems for fire resistance should have spent the past three years investing in additional testing and classification to enable them to meet the standards proposed in Approved Document B.
These standards include moving away from testing to BS standards and towards testing, extending and classifying to EN standards, before acquiring official classification reports from a verified third party.
Retesting and extending an entire portfolio of systems is no small feat, but it is absolutely critical.
Manufacturers should, by now, be beginning to provide these with ease. While it is an architect’s job to request regulatory and performance information, the manufacturer’s job should be to provide essential classification reports, even for projects where the architect doesn’t specifically request them.
As soon as Approved Document B was updated, at Siniat we began a major investment in expanding our range of EN tests, commissioning third-party extensions using EXAP standards and obtaining official classifications.
We’re now due to have over 500 of our partition systems EN classified with third-party reports by January 2023. These essential EN classification reports will be included as standard within our project packs so architects and designers won’t even have to ask.
Providing these classification reports as standard will not only lighten the ever-increasing load for architects, but also helps us to move towards the ‘golden thread’ of building-performance evidence, particularly around fire safety, by providing up-to-date, easily accessible and unbroken performance information.
Ultimately, although the manufacturer can draft a specification for consideration, the architect or designer will be held accountable for ensuring the final specification complies with the project requirements and Building Regulations.
However, what the manufacturer must do is ensure that every system used for fire safety is compliant with regulations and that irrefutable performance evidence is provided. Otherwise, we are not building safely.
For more information and technical support, visit siniat.co.uk
800 145 6033
Robert Cridford is technical manager at dry construction materials specialist Siniat. The company is a key supply partner on thousands of construction projects across the world.