This is an abridged letter from Denis Wright, Chairman of Wrightstyle, to Andrew Stunell, Under Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government
Dear Under Secretary of State,
I am writing to bring to your attention an issue of fire safety which my company believes to be one that requires urgent assessment and further guidance to be issued to fire safety personnel. I am writing in the context of your statement identifying the changes that need to be made to the building regulations to ensure they remain fit for purpose. My company, Wrightstyle Ltd, supplies internal and external glass and glazing systems internationally, with a full service capability from design, through fabrication to installation. Apart from recent UK contracts, for both commercial and Olympic projects, we have supplied over the past year to, among other countries: South Africa (a FIFA World Cup stadium), UAE (Dubai Metro) and the USA (a nationally-important chapel for the US Marine Corps). My reason for writing is that we are seeing an issue of non-compliance taking place in the UK as regards glazing systems (including doors, screens and facades) that are being inspected and passed as being fire resistant when, in fact, they offer little protection against the passage of fire, smoke or toxic gases. The issue seems to be an incomplete understanding and enforcement of fire specifications contained within the Approved Document B and the usage requirements of certification data. In practice, and we have first-hand experience of this, unlatched doors with untested or incompatible fire-resistant glass are being accepted as fire doors within the regulatory definitions despite the fact that they are clearly not within the permissible limitations of their supplied test certification. We assume what is taking place is that fire safety officers are placing emphasis on the door's performance as having, for example, 60 minutes of integrity, while paying insufficient attention to the fact that the door types, without an adequate safety latch mechanism or compatible glass, will certainly fail well within that period, allowing fire, heat or gases to pass through. There seems to be insufficient guidance to fire or building control officers or consultants as to what needs to be specifically checked on the submitted data. The building regulations simply state that test standards such as BS476 Part 22 or the applicable EN specification should be available. At no point do the regulations require further examination of that test certificate to determine whether or not the installed assembly matches the description in the certification. British Standards and Building Regulations are there to protect public safety, not least in the event of a catastrophic fire. With regret, when it comes to unlatched fire doors, there requires to be an assessment of current guidelines for fire safety officers, and other authorised fire consultants, and an urgent need to issue further guidance to determine when an unlatched glazed door system can be considered a fire door.
Yours sincerely, Denis Wright