The Building Safety Bill is an important step forward for the industry and will put fire door safety as a priority at the start of a building project rather than something tagged on the end.
This is something that has been needed for years to help drive up standards and safety levels. It is terrible that it took a tragedy like Grenfell to get policy-makers to sit up and take notice. But, perhaps from as early as this summer, the importance of fire certification on fire doors in buildings will need to be considered at the planning stage and checked throughout the development. After that, responsibility for ongoing maintenance and compliance will sit with the building owner. No confusion. No quibbles. No dodging the difficult questions or uncomfortable costs.
Of course, this is just one of a raft of recommendations which came from the inquiry by Dame Judith Hackitt, who published her final report in 2018.
Routinely, in my experience, an architect, in liaison with their client, will design a building with door specified for the way they look. It is noted that it should be fire safety accredited. The contractor will then try to find a door that matches at a competitive price. It is not until the last stage that documentation is requested – and there is a big difference between fire certification, fire test results, global assessment and what the product manual says, which many people do not fully understand. Fire certification: how does it work?
The new Bill can change this at last. And it is a shot in the arm for door sets which are designed and installed with fire safety in mind, rather than traditionally hung doors which require several components coming together to create a fire safety compliant install.
Under the new regulations, those in construction will have to demonstrate levels of competency appropriate to their level of involvement, whether they are designers, manufacturers, installers, building control inspectors or risk assessors. Generally, it will be expected that the sector will have more knowledge about fire certificates and testing as opposed to just product manuals, for instance.
The thing is, it is so easy to do. Gone are the days when paper copies need to be kept somewhere they can be found and everyone knows where that is. Everything is digital these days, meaning compliance can be checked and maintenance schedules recorded.
The horrific events at Grenfell in June 2017 brought the very real consequences of inadequate attention to fire safety into the spotlight. The Building Safety Bill can now take the learnings and enshrine them in law to help avoid something like that ever happening again.