One of the UK’s leading steel glazing companies has written to the government to raise what it believes to be an “extremely important” issue of fire safety.
Wrightstyle, which supplies steel glazing systems worldwide, is concerned that glazed doors, screens and facades are being inspected and passed as being fire resistant when in fact they offer little protection.
The company’s chairman, Denis Wright, has raised the issue with Andrew Stunell OBE MP, under secretary of state at the Department for Communities and Local Government, who has already announced a consultation on changes that need to be made to the building regulations to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
The minister has also stated that he wishes to explore what more can be done to make sure inspectors adhere to the building regulations and how better levels of compliance can be delivered, issues, which are at the heart of Wrightstyle’s concern.
The company believes that there seems to be an incomplete understanding and enforcement of fire specifications contained within the approved document B and the usage requirements of certification data.
“For example, and we have first-hand experience of this, unlatched doors with untested or incompatible fire-resistant glass are being accepted as fire doors within the regulatory definitions despite the fact that they are clearly not within the permissible limitations of their supplied test certification. This is palpably absurd,” said Denis Wright in his letter.
Wrightstyle says that there seems to be insufficient guidance to fire or building control officers or consultants as to what needs to be specifically checked on the submitted data. The building regulations simply state that test standards such as BS476 Part 22 or the applicable EN specification should be available.
However, at no point do the regulations require further examination of that test certificate to determine whether or not the installed assembly matches the description in the certification. For example, if the assembly is constructed from multiple components, have they been tested together? If it has been welded, has it been welded using the correct process?
In the past, Wrightstyle has raised issues of fire safety certification in Dubai and, most recently, in Abu Dhabi, where it believed that regulations were not being stringently enforced, or where there was a less than optimal understanding of the performance criteria of using systems where components have not been tested together.
Wrightstyle supplies internal and external glass and glazing systems internationally, with a full service capability from design, through fabrication to installation. Apart from recent UK contracts, for both commercial and olympic projects, it has supplied over the past year to, among other countries, South Africa (a FIFA world cup stadium), UAE (Dubai metro) and the US (a nationally-important chapel for the US Marine Corps).
“British Standards and Building Regulations are there to protect public safety, not least in the event of a catastrophic fire. With regret, when it comes to unlatched fire doors, there requires to be an assessment of current guidelines for fire safety officers, and other authorised fire consultants, and an urgent need to issue further guidance to determine when an unlatched glazed door system can be considered a fire door,” concluded Denis Wright.