The Association for Specialist Fire Protection welcomes the recommendations from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which it believes offer a brave and mature approach aimed at helping to deliver a safer built environment. However, the ASFP believes that the recommended reforms should be applied to cover the great majority of buildings rather than focusing solely on high risk residential buildings (HRRBs).

The ASFP welcomes the focus on ensuring fire safety is considered early in the design process and also strongly supports the suggestion that third-party product certification be made mandatory. The Association also supports the introduction of the Joint Competent Authority (JCA) to provide coordination between the Health and Safety Executive, Local Authority Building Control and the Fire and Rescue Services.

The Association particularly welcomes the introduction of mandatory sign off procedures to be policed by the JCA to ensure satisfactory completion of progress at the crucial Gateway Points of: Planning Permission, Permission to Build and Permission to Occupy. 

Niall Rowan ASFP CEO states:

“The ASFP supports the report as aiming to deliver a better built environment with fire safety given the proper consideration it deserves.

“We believe the focus on high risk residential buildings (HRRBs) is a good place to start, but we would like to see many of the recommendations rolled out progressively to cover the great majority of buildings since the issues raised are applicable to all buildings and not just HRRBs.

“The greater emphasis on considering fire safety early in the design process and so building what was designed is in alignment with the work we have been doing with RIBA on the creating a Fire Safety Overlay for the RIBA Plan of Works. Furthermore, to have a dedicated Dutyholder is also a logical step in coordinating fire safety throughout the construction process and prevents responsibility being passed onto others when problems arise.

“The ASFP also strongly supports the suggestion that third-party product certification be made mandatory. This is something for which we have been campaigning for many years.”

The Association also notes that the final report does not ban the use of combustible materials in high rise buildings, which is strongly supported by many, including some of its own members. The ASFP commends Dame Judith for setting out a framework for the complete overhaul of the regulatory, testing and enforcement system, rather than introducing such ‘quick-fix’ measures but recognises that such changes may take many years to implement and that some interim requirements may be necessary.

The ASFP also believes that severely restricting the use of assessments in lieu of tests (desktop studies), is impractical because these are needed for the huge number of combinations and variations of passive fire protection products. While the process of issuing such assessments is well established in the construction industry and works well in the vast majority of cases, the ASFP recommends that there is a need to significantly tighten up on the process, especially for products and systems used in external envelopes. Restrictions should be placed on who is permitted to undertake assessments in lieu of tests and the qualifications, experience and training required must be clearly defined.