Helen Hewitt of the British Woodworking Federation explains the importance of third-party certification in the context of the upcoming building safety legislation and the changes it will bring.
The newly introduced Building Safety Bill – and new planning legislation introduced in August – propose new ‘Gateway Points’ to ensure suitable consideration is given to building safety throughout the construction process, and before a building is occupied. The long overdue proposed changes have been welcomed by the construction industry and industry associations.
But what impact will the Bill, when it becomes law, have on fire door safety specifically, and how can specifying thirdparty certified fire doors now ensure that housebuilders and developers stay ahead of the upcoming changes?
A key component of the Bill is a requirement for an ‘accountable person’ to retain fire and structural safety information through a project – referred to as the ‘golden thread.’ This information is required to be digitally stored and, importantly, updated throughout the building’s lifespan – a positive step which goes above and beyond the requirements for the exchange of fire safety information in current Building Regulations.
The golden thread will mean that important information regarding building materials will be passed between stakeholders throughout the building’s lifecycle, ensuring that the appropriate person has the information they need to ensure the building’s ongoing safety. This is vital for the maintenance of fire safety products that are installed, particularly fire doors, which perform a life-saving role in the event of a fire. This level of traceability is already achievable by specifying a third party-certified fire door – which provides a robust, evidence-based log of the fire door’s component parts.
WHAT IS THIRDPARTY CERTIFICATION?
Third-party certification of a fire door means that the manufacturer, or processor, has been audited by an independent body to ensure the fire door is produced to a consistent standard and has robust evidence of its performance. Providing peace of mind, third-party certification gives specifiers verification of product performance and quality. The certification process involves meeting specific criteria set out by the third-party certification body. For BWF Fire Door Alliance members, this criteria includes:
- Initial fire testing: A full-sized construction of a door assembly is subjected to one or more tests in accordance with the appropriate fire test standard (BS 476: Part 22 or BS EN 1634-1) at a UKAS accredited test facility to determine its fire resistance. The test results are used to produce the scope of certification.
- Initial manufacturing process audit: BWF Fire Door Alliance members are audited by their chosen UKAS accredited product certification body. This provides reassurance and confidence that the correct management procedures, manufacturing processes and systems are in place to ensure consistency in the manufacture of the fire door.
- Audit testing: The fire door is subject to regular scrutiny, with frequent testing on sampled products to ensure that the initial test was not a one-off result.
- Further manufacturing audits: The manufacturer’s or processor’s management procedures, manufacturing processes and systems are regularly audited.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
With the Building Safety Bill and the introduction of the golden thread on the horizon, third-party certification provides vital visibility and traceability for building owners and managers of a fire door’s journey through the construction supply chain.
This means that a label or plug with a unique identification number is fixed to the door, allowing for full traceability, as well as access to information related to the door’s specification and production records.
Importantly, for large residential properties, it allows access to the original fire certificate, and the scope of certification. This is critical to the fire door’s ongoing maintenance throughout its lifespan as it enables inspections to be carried out against the door’s original standard. For maintenance purposes it is also important, as it allows replacement components to be sourced which are compatible with the certification so that compliance is maintained.
Passing this level of building safety information through the supply chain, particularly for residential properties, can result in the difference between a fire door that is fit for purpose and one that does not hold back smoke and fire.
The Building Safety Bill is yet to pass through Parliament, but it’s clear that it will focus on traceability and accountability. By specifying third-party certified fire doors now, housebuilders and developers can take a proactive approach to compliance with the upcoming legislation, and benefit from the knowledge that their fire doors will perform as stated in the event of a fire.
Helen Hewitt is CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF)