Taking an alternative approach to product innovation and certification
The construction sector is currently facing one of its biggest transitions to date. As specifying and installing building products that go above and beyond minimum levels of compliance is paramount to ensuring the long-term safety of a building, here Marcus Parnham, Commercial Director at Profab Access, discusses the importance of adequate product testing and certification.
As the Grenfell Inquiry’s second phase continues, further admissions regarding the performance of England’s current building safety regime are set to come to light. Whilst phase one of the inquiry focused on establishing the facts at the time of the incident, the remit of phase two is to examine the complex evidence to inform policy makers as they consider new legislation and testing regimes.
The Grenfell Inquiry, the release of the Building Safety Bill and the formation of the new National Construction Products Regulator have all emphasised the importance of the construction sector radically altering its approach to product testing and certification.
No longer will just meeting current standards and regulations be acceptable. In this new era of accountability, it is imperative that the industry sets the standard in achieving a proactive and comprehensive approach to building safety.
First raised in Dame Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, the fire-resistance of a building product should be tested in ‘real-world conditions’ to ensure that all performance figures stated by the manufacturer are factual and represent the final installation. Whilst some manufacturers may currently only conduct product assessments via a third party, others have responded to Dame Hackitt’s findings and have adopted a proactive approach to the testing, certification and verification of their products.
Profab Access has led the way in increasing standards within this area, being the first manufacturer in the UK to bi-directionally fire test its riser doors via an independent third party. As the riser door is physically tested in both directions, it offers the highest levels of fire safety, as professionals can be confident the riser door will withstand exposure to fire and smoke from both directions for the certified time period.
This adequately prevents the spread of fire throughout a multi-storey building as the opportunity for the fire to enter the riser shaft through a riser door located in a corridor and exit through another riser door in a different area or floor of the building is entirely eliminated because both sides of the door have been successfully tested.
Beyond the testing of the doorset, it is also critical that it is installed into an approved wall construction in a method consistent with the sample originally tested. In practice, the installation process potentially poses a number of risks to the overall fire integrity of a construction through variables such as the packer type and intumescent mastic bead application.
To overcome this potential gap in compliance, professionals should look to work with manufacturers that are taking this commitment to third party testing and certification even further through latest advancements in technology and product design, which are providing a revolutionary approach to the installation and maintenance processes.
This includes the new PRECISION adjustable frame, which is supplied as standard with the Profab Access INTEGRA 4000 Series Fire Rated Riser Door. The product’s unique construction enables the frame to precisely adjust to the specific dimensions of each structural opening, without the need for traditionally used packers during installation, dramatically reducing fitting times and superseding current building regulations.
The frame also eliminates the need for intumescent mastic bead application as a secondary operation on site, as it utilises a factory applied integral all-in-one smoke, intumescent and acoustic FS1000 seal, to provide fire stopping between the frame and the wall. Whilst eliminating the reliance of the correct thickness of intumescent mastic bead, it most importantly ensures the compliance and adequacy of the entire installation, as its fire integrity performance has been sufficiently documented by an independent assessor. As a result, this also subsequently increases the efficiencies of installation and removes any potential margins for error.
As the construction sector continues to unearth deep rooted issues regarding the development, testing and certification of products, we are already starting to see proficient changes in action, as manufacturers, architects, specifiers and contractors work together to create and communicate an uninterrupted set of information and certification that goes above and beyond adhering to current regulations to achieve best in class specifications that will continue to perform for the entire lifecycle of the building.