Sales Director for Framing at voestalpine Metsec plc, explores the importance of only specifying framing materials that have been fire tested or assessed by UKAS accredited bodies, and the options available to the industry.

Following recent events, it’s clear that the building industry as a whole needs to deliver solutions to the required performance specification, as we can expect a higher level of scrutiny of the installation and performance of products and systems, regardless of it being a high-rise project or not.
voestalpine Metsec plc recognise the importance of this, hence the investment in over 200 tests across our SFS range, which now has more system testing data than ever before. With our fire performance data tested or assessed by the UK’s leading test centre – the BRE, we also calculate acoustic and thermal data to give the additional reassurance end clients are calling for.

Closer scrutiny

Focusing on the performance of one standalone product in a fire is too simplistic and does not address all the risks involved. We need to consider all of the other factors that can allow a fire to spread, and ensure that all components used have been designed and developed in line with the latest fire and safety guidance.

As those in the construction industry already know, one outcome of Grenfell was a call for systemic change from Dame Judith Hackitt. This demand for change, based on Dame Judith’s Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, was different to the ‘shopping list’ view backed by those such as the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Institute of British Architects, yet received support from those in the housing sector.

Call for change

A recent survey found 82 per cent of those in the housing sector agreed with Dame Judith’s view that fire safety regulation for complex and high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose.

With only 8 per cent of those questioned being ‘very confident’ in the Government’s ability to make sufficient changes to regulation and enforcement1, this survey highlights why many of us have already taken the initiative to make the necessary changes ourselves.

For example, nearly 80 per cent of these survey respondents has already made changes in their own procedures, examining fire safety provision across product ranges and projects.

And rightly so – the construction industry should have fire safety high on its own personal agenda. The Grenfell tragedy highlighted the need for a significant change when it comes to process, materials and regulation.

Looking ahead

For any future building project, full system testing and fire safety are paramount to any organisation within the construction supply chain.
Striking this balance can be a challenge for the industry – but achieving this won’t happen overnight.

Having led the market for more than 20 years, we recognised the need to increase the efficiency of steel framing system (SFS) products, which led to the development and launch of the innovative new SFS range. Whilst this range is lighter and more cost-efficient, we focused on robust fire solutions and enabling more efficient wall construction performance.

Months of research, design and stringent fire testing were invested to develop our new SFS range of sections, and, with the introduction of more product options to reduce over-specification, we are putting our stake in the ground with regards to where the industry needs to move to if it is to evolve.

Quality and fire safety do not have to be sacrificed in the name of cost – and should never be.

The construction industry should lead the future fire safety debate, and work with regulators to ensure all parties involved – from contractors to building occupants – view the sector as standard bearers for both quality and safety.

1 https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/sponsored/sponsored/fire-safety-in-the-spotlight