In response to the Building a Safer Future consultation on fire safety and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 call for evidence, the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) has renewed its call for mandatory competency checks on those who specify fire doors and associated door hardware.
The Building a Safer Future proposals build on the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The report sets out ideas for the fundamental reform of building safety requirements, designed to ensure residents can be safe, and feel safe, in their homes.
The GAI has also called again for mandatory fire door inspections and maintenance as part of Building Regulations.
Its response noted that, while the report says residents and landlords in High Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs) should ensure fire compartmentation is maintained to a suitable standard, this was in fact only a step in the right direction.
Douglas Masterson, technical manager of the GAI, said: “Any increased emphasis on competence in industry is most welcome by our industry. The architectural ironmongery industry’s view is that there is a clear requirement for fire-related and other complex specifications to be undertaken by qualified ironmongers, and that installations and maintenance should also be undertaken by qualified personnel or companies. Competence is key across all these areas when it comes to ironmongery, particularly for fire and escape doors.”
In its submission to the consultation, the GAI has also highlighted its growing concerns about continued ‘value engineering’ by contractors and sub-contractors, particularly the frequent changes to architectural ironmongery specified for fire doors.
The Guild supports the change control process recommended in Hackitt’s report, but also recommends taking it further to add ‘changes in specification on product with fire and life safety implications’ to the list of changes that would be deemed major.
Major changes would require the principal contractor to consult the client and principal designer, and then, if they are happy with these changes, the principal contractor must then notify the regulator and submit further details before carrying out the work.
“There is a danger that substitution of specified products which can have an impact on fire safety, such as architectural ironmongery, may not be picked up as part of the existing proposals,” said Douglas. “We are most concerned that any potential degrading of a specification which has been prepared by a qualified architectural ironmonger could have severe fire safety consequences.
“At the GAI we are still very much in support of reintroducing the Clerk of Works role to ensure that specifications are being followed to the letter, something that was sadly missing from the Government’s response.”
The Guild supports calls for a national construction products regulator that can take action against any manufacturer which makes false claims about its products. But the GAI argues that its remit needs to go wider:
“A national regulator with the powers to take legal action should be a necessity against all major standards, not purely those which are harmonised standards, as suggested in the original report.”
The GAI also backs recommendations to change the RRO so that the fire service has greater involvement with the sign-off of buildings, the industry-wide implementation of smart labels, greater clarity of approved documents, and third-party testing of products through schemes such as BWF-Certifire.
The GAI is part of the Industry Response Working Group 12 relating to products, chaired by the Construction Products Association.