Scheme warns that extending buildings upwards must not compromise fire safety

The BWF-Certifire Fire Door and Doorset Scheme responded to the government’s consultation on proposals to increase London’s housing supply through building upwards by emphasising that such plans must not compromise fire safety. The Scheme's response was as follows:

“We are supportive of an innovative approach to increase housing supply by allowing greater freedom to “build up” in London, providing the risks associated with such a policy are adequately addressed.

“We feel that Fire Safety is one of these risk areas. Building upwards increases the risks associated with bad property management and will often have major consequences for the Fire Safety of the building, impacting on the original part of the building as well as the extension.

“All of us who use or occupy any building have a right to expect that we will be safely protected should a fire break out. Sadly this is not always the case.  Short cuts in fire safety are taken all too often with endemic value engineering, lax enforcement and unfamiliarity with the rules bringing major risks, for contractors and clients alike.

“According to government statistics, more than three quarters of all fire-related fatalities occurred in dwelling fires (including private homes, social and affordable housing) and ignoring the risks associated with these properties can have severe consequences. In the recent example of London’s Lakanal House, six people lost their lives in a tower block fire that the inquest concluded was “largely caused by botched and unsafe renovation work and a council's failure to inspect the building as well as confusion and chaos during the fire-fighting operation”.

“All construction work of this type should be notified to building control for approval. We request that the current regulations are enforced more rigorously and for any extension, a fire-risk assessment is carried out which covers the entire building. It is also crucial that all those responsible for or impacted by fire safety have a clear understanding of the rules – this was another critical factor in the case of Lakanal House.

“Fire Doors are an essential element in fire safety and a requirement in every commercial, public and multiple occupancy building. In 2014, London Fire Brigade reported that over the previous three years there had been three deaths and 36 people injured in fires in the capital where fire doors had been replaced, left open or incorrectly fitted.

“As a vital safety device engineered to saves lives and property, the correct specification, fitting and maintenance of a fire doorset is the responsibility of each and every person involved in the process.

“We would therefore encourage the use of 3rd party certificated products and registered installers in all upwards extensions so that those involved in the specification, installation, inspection and use of fire doors are confident that the products are fit for purpose. By compromising on specification in any way, a fire door installation risks catastrophic failure in the event of a fire. Choosing cheaper untested products may save the client money, but if a fire breaks out it will cost far more in lives and property.”

The BWF-Certifire Scheme is the leading authority on fire door safety. Constant testing and assessment of fire doors and doorsets is necessary to ensure that products will perform to the stated fire rating. All participating members of the BWF-Certifire Fire Door and Doorset Scheme are rigorously assessed and audited, providing specifiers with the added security and confidence in the products being selected.