Change is in the air

In the wake of the Hackitt review, Paul King of Vicaima explains the changing landscape around fire doors.

Government departments are poring over technical data and preparing new directives, and trade bodies are examining every aspect of potential market implications. No, this is not another missive on Brexit, but the reality of the changing world concerning fire doors and related risk-critical products. Change is in the air, and everyone should be aware of the urgent need to specify truly compliant products that play a significant role in ensuring safety.

Following the tragic events of the Grenfell disaster in 2017, a greater under- standing began to emerge regarding the lack of a holistic approach to fire safety and the evident shortcomings of custom and practice where the cheapest option took precedence over properly certified and tested fire safe product solutions, such as fire doors and fire door assemblies.

The recently published document ‘Building a Safer Future’ commits the Government to a programme of reform which includes:

  • the implementation of the Hackitt recommendations
  • creation of a more effective regulatory and accountability framework
  • the introduction of clearer standards and guidance
  • a vision to create a culture change.

The result of these actions will mean tougher sanctions for those who disregard residents’ safety, and more rigorous standards. In fact, the Government has committed to carrying out a full technical review of Approved Document B. This will propose potential changes to a range of technical issues within the current Approved Document.

While we await the inevitable alterations to legislation and good practice, it is encouraging to learn that Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent recommendations will form a cornerstone of the changes to come, shaping future product specification, installation and ongoing use throughout the life cycle of buildings.

For housebuilders and developers struggling to evaluate fire door solutions in this changing world, especially in respect to residential high-rise and complex buildings, answers are at hand. It is important to recognise that there are existing, reputable and long-standing timber fire door manufacturers who are able to provide certified performance products with exceptional test evidence and who already incorporate key elements of Hackitt’s recommendations as a matter of course. For the specifier, it is simply a matter of check- ing the facts and looking for evidence rather than accepting often dubious and unsubstantiated claims.

Perhaps one of the most obvious and visible routes to take is to check for third party accreditation. A key element of the Hackitt recommendations was the use of third-party accreditation, and schemes such as BWF-Certifire and BM TRADA Q-Mark ensure that independent auditing of fire doors takes place on a regular basis.

Furthermore, doors within these schemes carry clear identification marks – on every fire door and not just on the packaging. In these examples traceability is always visible, with the use of tamper evident labels and plastic plugs to provide clear understanding of fire rating and origin of manufacture. This simple but effective marking ensures that the performance rating i.e. FD30, FD60 etc. is clear to all. Of course, reputable fire door manufacturers have nothing to hide, and so you should also expect to see a detailed inkjet stamp system on the door, to identify product description, exact date of manufacture and production batch, thereby establishing complete control of products throughout their lifecycle.

The fire door in itself does not provide the complete solution; this can only be achieved with compatible and rigorously tested components, including the correct frame and ironmongery. This is why, alongside fire doors, doorset and kit solutions need to be considered. Doorsets represent a growing trend, advocated by Government and industry as the way to ensure the whole system is safe and compliant.

The specification of fire doors for housebuilders and developers often goes hand in hand with other performance characteristics such as acoustics, security, environmental factors, and design. The performance fire door manufacturer chosen should also be able to demonstrate capability with tried and tested solutions to these and other features, if the fire doors offered are to be suitable as well as safe for modern residential applications. These solutions should include:

• Secured by Design (SBD) approved products
• acoustic performance, both inherent and additional as required
• durability with DD171 and EN 1192 severe duty rating, class 4
• Part M mobility provision via glazing and dimensional flexibility
• environmentally robust credentials, such as FSC Certified.

Last, and by no means least, specifying certified and tested performance fire doors and doorsets does not equate to settling for simple painted or moulded patterns, associated with past generations. There is a wealth of well-designed fire doors to choose from in finishes such as finish foil, veneer, laminates and precision lacquered surfaces. Whether you are looking for a fashion-conscious designer product or a cost-effective answer for your next project, the variety is almost endless.

Whatever future regulatory changes lie in store for the industry, you can be assured that there are manufacturers out there who can deliver not just words, but supportable evidence. So, if you want peace of mind and a safer tomorrow, don’t compromise.

Paul King is marketing director at Vicaima