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Just 1% of buildings complying with vital fire safety measure

Despite their crucial fire safety role, huge numbers of fire and smoke dampers remain untested in thousands of buildings across the UK, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). The Association fears that less than 1% of buildings have been fully tested in line with legislation, despite growing awareness

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CROSSING OVER TO INCLUDE FIRE SAFETY

The confidential reporting system for the building industry now includes fire safety and has relaunched as CROSS, Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK. CROSS-UK welcomes reports about fire safety and structural safety issues related to buildings and other structures in the built environment. Reports include information that will help others

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Opening the door to enhanced fire safety

Europe’s leading door Provider, Hörmann UK, is continuing to position itself at the forefront of industry developments with the launch of its new steel and stainless-steel Fire Rated Sliding Doors for the industrial and commercial construction sectors. Compliant to BS EN 120 and BS EN 240, the single-leaf fire sliding

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Home Office launches call for evidence on fire safety

The government is seeking views on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which underpins fire safety in non-domestic premises. Employers and business owners are being asked for their views on fire safety in workplaces in England as part of a Home Office call for evidence launched today. The Home

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Quality is critical for sprinkler systems, says AEI Cables

Leading supplier AEI Cables is highlighting the need for the highest quality of cabling for use in sprinkler systems increasingly being specified for use in new modern buildings. This follows a call from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Chartered

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Latest Issue

BDC 317 : Jun 2024

fire prevention

NITTAN EVOLUTION FIRE DETECTION SYSTEM PROTECTS NORTHERN IRELAND SHOPPING CENTRE

A Nittan Evolution fire detection system has been installed into the Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor by Nittan Elite Partner Solutions for Systems, based in Northern Ireland. Built in 1992, the Bloomfield Shopping Centre has for many years been North Down’s premier shopping destination, featuring a covered mall with 45 retailers, eight retail park units and three stand-alone restaurants.  A new fire detection system was required at the site and, following detailed proposals by Solutions for Systems, a Nittan Evolution system was installed.  William McBride of Solutions for Systems stated “Nittan were specified because the client required that the system selected be compliant, cost effective, user friendly and have functionality to permit integration with existing or future building management systems”. The new fire detection systems feature eight Nittan Evolution 1 fire alarm control panels installed in a network at strategic locations throughout the site, enabling site personnel to quickly and effectively access and assess any alerts on the fire alarm system without needing to return to the control room or to have dedicated staff located at a single panel in a control room.  Evolution 1 are user-friendly touch screen panels that are both reliable and cost effective.  Fully compliant with BS EN54 part 2 and 4, the Evolution 1 panels have been designed with separate dedicated menus for the user and installer. They have the capability of running up to 254 devices on the loop, while the flexible architecture means everything from a single standalone panel, to a 16 panel network can be achieved without any additional hardware. Evolution 1 panels are compatible with Nittan’s award winning Evolution range, which uses microprocessor technology in the sensors and sophisticated detection algorithms, combining extremely reliable fire detection together with a very high degree of protection against unwanted false alarms. Its advanced, highly flexible protocol is not only uniquely resistant to external interference, but also allows for substantial amounts of information to be transmitted at high speeds.  At the shopping centre, Evolution EV-DPH-A2R Dual Optical Heat Detectors were selected, which feature Nittan’s award winning Dual Optical Technology to reduce false alarms, which retail environments are often prone to.  Furthermore, the detectors also incorporate an A2R class heat detector.  As such, the units are capable of monitoring two very different by-products of a fire –smoke and heat – so response to all fire types is significantly improved when compared with single sensor type units.  The Evolution EV-DPH-A2R Detectors sit on Nittan EV-AV2-Sounder Beacon Bases which provide both sound and visual indication of alarm. The new BS5839 Part 1 compliant Nittan Evolution system installed at Bloomfield Shopping Centre is now in operation and meeting the needs of its customer.  It provides the level of protection required at a competitive price, from the cost of the equipment through to the installation and ongoing maintenance.  Whilst the cause-and-effect requirements of the centre and retail park are relatively complex and detailed, it was easy to configure with the Nittan system and a substantial part of the work to do so was performed off site which reduced on site disruption and installation costs. In addition, the system is open protocol and comes with an extended warranty which means the client has reassurance from an ongoing maintenance perspective that there should be minimal future costs after installation.  The open protocol also ensures the Nittan system can readily interface with the existing centre BMS and also the systems in individual shop/retail units. For more information, please contact Nittan on 01483 769 555 or by email at sales@nittan.co.uk or go to www.nittan.co.uk.

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Just 1% of buildings complying with vital fire safety measure

Despite their crucial fire safety role, huge numbers of fire and smoke dampers remain untested in thousands of buildings across the UK, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). The Association fears that less than 1% of buildings have been fully tested in line with legislation, despite growing awareness of the importance of carrying out comprehensive fire safety risk assessments in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy. Many building owners are unaware that they have a legal responsibility to ensure the fire and smoke dampers in their buildings are tested at least once a year – and sometimes more regularly depending on indoor conditions. Even where testing is being carried out, it is often impossible to access at least 25% of the dampers in a building and, in the worst cases, as many as 90% cannot be reached or even located. Failing to check that these devices are in good working order and, therefore, able to reduce the risk of fire and smoke spreading through a building, can lead to hefty fines and possible prison sentences under current fire regulations. “Many building owners don’t even know they have dampers; even less that they are a critical element of their building’s fire safety system,” said BESA’s technical consultant Peter Rogers. “However, since Grenfell there has been much greater focus on all aspects of fire safety. “This has obvious implications for damper testing regimes, best practice and the competence of the firms employed to locate, test, and maintain these safety critical devices,” Rogers told a BESA webinar this week. Guidance He explained that the Association had updated its technical guidance for Fire and Smoke Damper Maintenance (VH001) and that this can now be downloaded from its website as part of BESA’s contribution to improving the overall safety of buildings. The webinar heard that there are an estimated 30 million fire and smoke dampers already installed in UK buildings and, if each one was checked and repaired when necessary as required by law, the damper testing market would be worth at least £500 million annually. Despite the clear legal obligations, the BESA webinar heard that many buildings including hospitals (which typically contain thousands of dampers) had arbitrarily decided to reduce testing to once every five years to save money. “That’s like deciding to only put your seatbelt on once in every five car journeys,” said George Friend, chair of BESA’s Ventilation Hygiene group. “How do you know on which journey you are going to crash?” Part of the testing regime involves flagging up which dampers cannot be found or accessed and providing suggestions for remedial works – including installing access panels and/or builders’ hatches – to ensure all dampers can be checked and repaired if necessary. “It is also crucial that we move away from the tick list culture that still dominates testing regimes,” said Richard Norman, managing director of Indepth Services. “To be compliant with legislation, testing should involve comprehensive photographic records showing the condition of the damper before, during, and after testing. “The availability of VH001 has improved the situation and if all building owners or managers only used contractors who complied with this guidance, it would eradicate a big part of the problem,” added Norman. VH001 outlines all aspects of a compliant test regime in line with industry best practice and standards. It builds on the industry’s installation and commissioning code of practice DW/145, the sheet metal ductwork specification DW/144, and the ventilation hygiene standard TR/19. The BESA testing guidance was produced in response to urgent calls for a methodology to help the building services industry comply with the British Standard (BS9999) for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings along with the healthcare sector’s technical documents HTM 03-01 for heating and ventilation and HTM 05-02 for fire safety in healthcare premises. Competence BESA’s guidance explains how dampers should be located – in line with the responsibilities of the system designer and as part of a building’s fire strategy – and accessed for testing along with the levels of competence required to carry out this work. It states that an inventory of all dampers should be created and that every manually resettable damper is individually released to ensure the spring-loaded shutter remains operational. The BESA document also sets out a comprehensive plan for providing reports to clients and any findings that need action including damaged and missing dampers. It also highlights key elements needed to put a planned maintenance regime in place linked to the Association’s digital planned maintenance tool SFG20. “It is no longer acceptable – or compliant – to put in your report that a damper could not be tested,” said Friend. “There are a lot of people out there carrying out visual inspections that add no value for clients and certainly don’t make people safer.” Some firms have also been carrying out full building surveys to establish the number of dampers installed without actually carrying out any testing, the webinar heard. “Not only does this do nothing to improve fire safety, it is a criminal waste of a client’s time and money. If you are carrying out a survey, why not test at the same time?” said Norman, adding that one positive outcome from the Covid crisis was that many clients had been saving themselves time and money by getting indoor air quality and damper testing done at the same time.www.theBESA.com/knowledge

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CROSSING OVER TO INCLUDE FIRE SAFETY

The confidential reporting system for the building industry now includes fire safety and has relaunched as CROSS, Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK. CROSS-UK welcomes reports about fire safety and structural safety issues related to buildings and other structures in the built environment. Reports include information that will help others to learn from safety issues and typically look at concerns, near misses or incidents. Established originally in 1976 by the Institution of Structural Engineers, the Standing Committee on Structural Safety’s main function was to identify in advance, trends and developments that might contribute to an increased risk to structural safety. The move to this new organisation is a response to the findings of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety published in May 2018. Neil Gibbins from the Institution of Fire Engineers has been involved with the evolution of CROSS to include fire safety. He said: “The fire safety sector has nothing similar to CROSS. The UK approach to fire safety over the last forty years has changed quite dramatically. It has gone from being almost totally owned and managed in a prescriptive manner by the fire brigades to a much more diverse, goal based, self-compliant and complex process.” He continued: “The expansion of CROSS is a key step that will support fire sector learning, providing a route for professionals to safely share lessons that need to be learned and to provide some oversight of the health of the fire safety system.” The provision of a confidential reporting system that includes fire safety is a major step forward and Neil Gibbins said that the IFE welcomed the chance to be involved. Commenting on the creation of expert panels to comment on the reports received by CROSS, Neil explained: “The formation of a CROSS-UK Fire Safety Expert Panel and regular planned events that bring them together with the CROSS-UK Structural Safety Expert Panel provides the opportunity to feed informed opinion into the building safety system.” CROSS is seeking new ways to collaborate and welcomes approaches from those who would like to be involved. More information is available from www.cross-safety.org

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Opening the door to enhanced fire safety

Europe’s leading door Provider, Hörmann UK, is continuing to position itself at the forefront of industry developments with the launch of its new steel and stainless-steel Fire Rated Sliding Doors for the industrial and commercial construction sectors. Compliant to BS EN 120 and BS EN 240, the single-leaf fire sliding doors are available in two variations, with the FST 120-1 BS Fire Sliding Door offering 120-minute fire resistance and the FST 2410-1 BS providing 240-minute fire resistance. Providing first class fire performance, functionality and style, the two latest models are an extension of Hörmann UK’s impressive offering of sliding doors, which are renowned for delivering unrivalled durability and reliability. This is due to a patented cylindrical track roller and stable track roller, which provide optimal force balance for quiet operation and easy actuation, while the 72mm flush elements create a high quality door leaf with parallel, uniformed edges for a contemporary aesthetic. The new sliding doors are also available with a range of optional additions to meet the requirements of each individual specification. This includes impact absorber profile guards and anti-collision bollards to ensure continued safety and long service life, while the hold-open device and optical or acoustic alarm systems provide enhanced usability and safety. Available in either Pearlgrain galvanised or smooth galvanised surface finishes, there are a diverse range of colours to choose from including Flame Red, Anthracite Grey and Pure White. The sliding doors offer a modern finish, without compromising on fire performance. Paul Tulley, Key Account Manager for Hörmann UK, said: “Our new Fire Rated Sliding Doors, which are compliant to British Standards, are a key addition to our extensive range of fire rated sliding and functional doors. Suitable for installation across a wide range of developments and industries, the steel or stainless-steel doors can withstand heavy usage cycles with ease, due to their impressive quality of construction.” The doors can be operated in conjunction with an FSA-Basis hold-open device control centre, which combines the power supply, warning signals, fire detector evaluation, manual release button and reset device in a compact housing. This is supported by LED lamps or acoustic signals, which communicate the status and alarm states of the door. Additional safety elements, including fire detectors, magnets, recess flaps and fire alarm systems can also be quickly connected for easy integration. The doors can also be operated utilising Hörmann UK’s FSA-Plus hold-open device control centre, which features a battery backup for reliable operation, even in the event of power failures. The doors are also compatible with Hörmann UK’s powerful and maintenance-free SupraMatic operators, which provide fast opening and closing and are also available with soft start and soft stop available as standard, delivering gentle and quiet door travel. In case of fire, a patented compensator release system will unlock the operator, enabling the door to be closed via weights. For further information on Hörmann UK’s fire rated doors for the construction industry, call 01530 516880 or visit: https://www.hormann.co.uk/architects/doors.

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The meteoric rise of e-commerce is elevating Alpine’s solutions for mechanical fire suppression to new heights.

As the consumer continues to move away from the high street, impacting the UK retail property market, distribution centres are evolving into huge large-volume order fulfilment premises with multi bay racking, mezzanines and narrower isles to utilise every square inch. The warehouse market has doubled in the last 10 years. In 2018, the third largest number of warehouse transactions took place with the average new build warehouse now reaching 300,000 square feet. Market specialists are projecting an additional requirement for at least 44million square feet in the UK by 2021**. Alpine Fire Engineers have also experienced growth, in excess of 30% in 2018 as they continue to support the sector and the new challenges that are being presented. The demand and availability in key arterial locations is resulting in ground-breaking thinking to maximise the use of precious land banks held by developers. In a bid to offer new and innovative ways to keep up with increasing delivery volumes in shorter time periods, one provider, Gazeley, is to offer its clients a multi deck, 3-storey warehouse which is the first of its kind. The facility will comprise 426,000 square feet of space over the three levels, allowing for either multiple or single customer occupancy. As buildings become more complex with high density racking and automation the risk for property and life safety due to fire is increased. A mechanical fire suppression system is an active method of protection and is often a requirement of insurers and building control to mitigate that risk. The most commonly used consists of a water supply and pipework distribution system with strategically positioned sprinkler heads. Fire sprinkler systems are extensively used worldwide, with over 40 million sprinkler heads fitted each year. Key industry facts are that there has been no loss of life in a fire where the property has had sprinklers installed and in buildings with 100% protection, 96% of fires were controlled by the sprinklers alone. A sprinkler system can be linked to a fire alarm remaining on standby 24/7 and whilst the reduction of risk is the most compelling factor, insurance premiums can often be dramatically reduced and the loss to trade minimised, even after activation. One system does not suit all types of warehouse; therefore, it is essential to choose the right level of protection such as a roof-only system, in-rack sprinklers or both. It is also imperative that consideration to the ongoing use of the storage facility is thought through to ensure positions of sprinklers and likelihood of changing layouts is planned. In-rack sprinklers systems are most effective when careful thought is given to the goods to be stored, type and size, in addition to the shelving specification to ensure water can pass through if required. Steven Nanda, Alpine’s CEO, states ‘… Alpine work extremely hard to keep pace with our customers. Our latest projects involved extreme height solutions and have demanded that we use the latest in VR and BIM system design technology. This use of technology, ensures we are able to integrate and co-ordinate with other services, reduce on site challenges and deliver on time and to budget for our customers…’ Alpine Fire Engineers have unrivalled experience in the Logistics and Distribution sector delivering highly integrated bespoke fire protection solutions. With regulatory reforms, various insurance requirements, numerous design standards and a constantly evolving service sector it is vital that a project is supported and commissioned by an accredited company. Alpine are an LPC level 4 accredited company which ensures that their clients receive accurate, up-to-date and invaluable information at whatever stage of the process it is required. The Project Engineering team, who are fully conversant with both LPC BS EN 12845 and FM Global specifications, engage early to support their customers from the initial planning stage right through to interpreting employer’s requirements. They will also comfortably liaise directly with insurers to ensure design standards and specifications are met whilst delivering a cost effective and high-performance solution to mitigate their customers risk. As important as the design and commissioning is the ongoing planned maintenance and testing of the system by appropriately trained personnel or certified companies as noted by the LPCB guidelines. Alpine directly employs a nationwide team of highly skilled Service Engineers who will inspect automatic fire suppression systems as part of a planned and preventative maintenance regime, which is vital to ensure deployment and optimal performance when the system is needed. Planned maintenance schedules are tailored to the needs of each site ensuring that the requirements of LPCB 1048 guidelines and those of the insurers are met. Alpine provide specific sprinkler training and awareness courses for employees, delivered at the site where they work, with programmes to suit each business and complement our planned maintenance products. For more information on our design, project management and aftercare solutions please contact Louise Plant on 0161 791 4500, or l.plant@alpinefire.co.uk or visit www.alpinefire.co.uk

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Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

The next generation of tall buildings being constructed around the world will require new ways of fire-fighting, an expert has warned. Speaking at FIREX International 2019, the Chief Executive of Tall Building Fire Safety, Russ Timpson, said the fire safety community has to “get on board” with all the technological changes that are happening around the construction of tall buildings. Mr Timpson said that around 541 new tall buildings, over 20 floors high are going up in London over the next five years alone. “We are going to see significantly more tall buildings,” he told delegates. “They will be taller, more complex and vertical villages. They won’t be single use anymore. “They will have offices, apartments and viewing galleries all in the same building.” He also quoted the example of the proposed Sky City building in the Chinese city of Changsha, which has been designed to stand 838 metres tall with 202 floors and house 30,000 residents. “A planet with 10 billion people living on it means we’re going to have to live in much denser environments” “The architect said you can be born, grow up, meet your partner and get a job all without having to leave the building,” said Mr Timpson. “If we are going to talk about a planet with 10 billion people living on it, we are going to have to live in much more dense environments.” But he added that new materials, like timber will be used in the construction of tall buildings in the future, particularly as nations look to reduce their carbon footprints. Timber buildings “We are going to build tall buildings out of timber,” he insisted. “It’s going to happen. It’s a natural material, but the challenge is we have to do it safely. “The fire safety community has to get onboard and you will see a tall timber building coming to a city near you very soon, and it will probably have lots of greenery on the outside.” He also raised the idea of having a fire safety rating system for buildings, similar to the ones already in place for energy and sustainability. And he warned that construction fire safety in the UK is “very poor”. “I spend a lot of my professional time going around doing fire safety audits on tall building sites, and it’s very poor here in the UK and we are lagging behind other countries. “I strongly feel we will have a tall building construction fire here in the UK and construction workers could be killed. “Only the other day, I was on a building on the 30th floor, and when I asked ‘where is the wet riser?’, they ‘said there is no wet riser on this building, there is only a dry riser, but it finishes on the 20th floor’. How the hell do you expect fire fighters to fight fires on construction sites when they have no access to water? ‘If we have 541 tall buildings being built [in London], then we better have a serious look at construction fire safety.’ He also added that architects need to do away with assembly points outside buildings, because they are dangerous. “In a world of new dimension risks, I think they are a terrorist target. We all have to move to a philosophy of evacuate and disperse,” he explained. “When you leave the building, you should signify you are doing that via your smart phone and disperse. We need to move and embrace technology.” And Mr Timpson also predicted that drones will play a much larger role in fire safety in the future. “I can see high value tall buildings having a drone built into the building itself. It will be activated by the alarm system, go and find where the fire is. We are probably not far away from that and it could be part of a standard fit for tall buildings going forward.” For more information please visit https://www.firex.co.uk/

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Home Office launches call for evidence on fire safety

The government is seeking views on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which underpins fire safety in non-domestic premises. Employers and business owners are being asked for their views on fire safety in workplaces in England as part of a Home Office call for evidence launched today. The Home Office is seeking feedback on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which underpins fire safety in business premises, such as offices, warehouses, shops and commercial venues, to ensure it is fit for purpose. The call for evidence follows publication last year of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review on Building Regulation and Fire Safety, which was commissioned by the government after the Grenfell Tower fire. The order places legal duties on those responsible for the safety of people using business premises. This is typically an employer or business owner, who must carry out fire risk assessments and ensure the safety of staff and others. Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said: The Grenfell Tower fire was an unimaginable tragedy and we are determined to do everything we can to stop it ever happening again. The government is making good progress on improving the safety of high-rise flats, but we must also look at the wider building safety landscape, including the places where we all work. To help keep people safe, we want to ensure the Fire Safety Order is fit for purpose. To do this, we need to understand how it is working on the ground and make informed decisions in the future. The order covers all non-domestic premises, as well as the parts of residential buildings used in common, such as corridors and stairwells. Under the order, those responsible for fire safety in regulated premises include employers, business owners, landlords, occupiers and anyone else in control of the premises, such as building and facilities managers. The order also applies to anyone with paying guests, including those who run bed and breakfasts, guesthouses or let self-catering properties, as well as hotels. All of these ‘responsible persons’ are being urged to respond to the call for evidence. Their responsibilities include: carrying out a fire risk assessment of the premises and reviewing it regularly telling staff or their representatives about the risks identified putting in place and maintaining appropriate fire safety measures planning for an emergency providing staff information, fire safety instruction and training The call for evidence will run for eight weeks until 31 July 2019, and an analysis of responses will be published and inform the government’s next steps later this year. It complements the government’s consultation, Building a Safer Future, which is also launched today. Led by the Ministry for Housing, communities and local government, the consultation outlines how the government proposes to take forward meaningful legislative reform in the building safety regulatory system. See more information on the call for evidence here and on the Building a Safer Future consultation here.

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Quality is critical for sprinkler systems, says AEI Cables

Leading supplier AEI Cables is highlighting the need for the highest quality of cabling for use in sprinkler systems increasingly being specified for use in new modern buildings. This follows a call from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) to make the installation of sprinklers mandatory in all residential buildings, hotels, hospitals, schools and care homes taller than 11 metres. The same organisations have also called for sprinklers to be retrofitted where possible. Graham Turner, of AEI Cables, said the issue of providing continuous power to sprinkler systems is a key component of improving fire safety in buildings nationwide. He added: “Buildings such as tower blocks, hospitals, schools, shopping malls, airports and those areas with large numbers of people moving about need cabling which will continue to operate in a fire and provide power for the highest fire protection of 120 minutes. “This ensure fire and rescue services can safely evacuate people and that sprinklers will continue to operate in the event of a fire.” The Hackitt Review into the Grenfell disaster sets out a series of proposals to make tower blocks safer to live in but stops short of recommending a mandatory requirement for sprinklers to be fitted. The new generation AEI Cables’ fire performance cabling ensures critical fire-safety circuits can continue to operate in the event of a fire from 30 minutes up to 120 minutes. Using the very latest in technology and science, the Firetec Total Fire Solutions range from AEI Cables offers enhanced fire performance cabling, accessories and technical support from one source. All AEI Cables’ products are supplied with approvals from independent bodies including BASEC and LPCB covering design, manufacture and supply. It also holds approvals from organisations including Lloyds, the MoD, Network Rail and LUL and works to international standards around the world.

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