A study by the Fire Sector Federation of members' views on Building Regulations and its Guidance in Approved Document B (ADB) has found that:
• 92% of FSF members indicate a need to make changes to Building Regulations and Approved Document B
• Over 88% of FSF members agree the Approved Document B is not adapted to suit the trends used in today’s construction methods, design and usage, in comparison to 42.3% of CIC who do agree it is flexible
• 90% of FSF members said third party accreditation should be mandatory instead of voluntary
• 43% of CIC members and 75% of FSF members think the Fire and Rescue Service should have the final decision over B5 compliance (access and facilities for Fire and Rescue Services)
• 100% agreed the need to address inconsistencies in building definitions
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The study was led by the FSF’s Built Environment Issues and Affairs Workstream which surveyed Federation and CIC membership on clarity of wording, user-friendliness, adaptation to construction trends and the incorporation of factors other than life safety in ADB.
Commenting on the findings, chair of the workstream Celestine Cheong said: "The Federation is founded on acceptance that fire safety in the UK is far wider than the Fire and Rescue Service alone because emergency firefighting is a measure implemented when safety features and protection has failed, and we need to remove this eventuality as much as possible.
"We understand the pressures on Government and we would like to help resolve issues pertaining to fire. Having identified areas in this study such as the research underpinning the Guidance being out of date, complex wording and the Guidance’s limited applied scope, we wish to work with Government to develop further opinion on an agreed frequency of updates, idea generation with relevant stakeholders for improved clarity of text, and to develop opportunities to minimise risks and impacts from fire to property, the wider built and other environments."
The findings reveal both the FSF and CIC believe issues with definitions, clarity of wording, adaptation to construction trends and its scope in the Guidance in Approved Document B should be addressed. The FSF is of a collective opinion a significant attitude change to fire safety is needed whereby proper assessment of construction products and methods, the consideration of credible research and mandatory accreditation must be urgently pursued.
Net saving of £1bn
Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Council Graham Watts OBE added: "As best practice and new technology evolves, it is essential that Building Regulations and Guidance Documents are aligned with these new developments, that they are clear in their meaning and easy to use.
"This necessitates a regular need for review to ensure relevance. A review of Approved Document B is long overdue. I welcome the findings of this study in drawing attention to problems that are challenging FSF and CIC members and may be compromising fire safety in our built environment."
Research in 2005 from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) showed that by including requirements for fire safety management in Approved Document B, a net saving to society of up to £1 billion over 25 years through reduced incidence and severity of fires, could be realised.
The last available and recognised figure for the economic cost of fire was in 2008 when fire cost the UK £8.3 billion per year. Latest figures reveal the British economy lost £1 billion in GDP and 5,000 jobs during the years 2010-2014 to preventable commercial warehouse fires alone. The cost of fire to the UK is steeply rising despite fewer fire deaths recorded annually.
Mark Shepherd, Manager, General Insurance, Association of British Insurers (ABI), concluded: "The Guidance in Approved Document B should promote a risk-based approach to fire safety and recognise the inter-relationship between fire safety, arson and security in buildings, and the impact of fire on communities.
"It is time that fire safety design guidance considers all pertinent risk factors including social, economic and environmental factors such as proximity to, and use of neighbouring buildings, local rates of fire and arson, and levels of deprivation."