Comments on, “Amendments to statutory guidance on assessments in lieu of test in Approved document B (Fire Safety)’’

Mitch Gee, Executive Chairman

Dame Judith Hackett’s interim review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety advised that the Government should significantly restrict the use of desktop studies to approve changes to cladding systems.

The Secretary of State made the following commitment:

‘’On desktop studies we will revise the approved documents on fire safety and commission work to produce a new British Standard on how such assessments can be used.’’

There are 4 routes to compliance:

  • Linear route – all elements of the façade are of limited construction or better (non-combustible in Scotland)
  • Fire safety engineering route – the whole building is assessed for spread of fire which is undertaken by a fire engineer
  • Undertake full scale fire test BS8414
  • Assessment in lieu of test – this route will be available if there is only a slight variation in design from the original BS8414 test.

The consultation paper seeks views on whether Government should prohibit the use of assessments in lieu of tests either for all fire tests classifications or for the fire test classifications relating to BS8414 full scale cladding test.

I think most in the EWI industry would support this approach as the EWI sector has traditionally undertaken full-scale fire tests for systems offered for use over 18m. It is obviously not practical to eliminate all assessments in lieu of tests, but as an industry we would support there use be significantly curtailed.

The current Building Regulations require that the external walls on all buildings adequately resist the spread of fire. This needs to be demonstrated in one of two ways:

  • Each individual component of the wall meets the required standard for combustibility
  • That all combined elements of a wall when tested as a whole adequately resist the spread of fire to meet a set standard.

Some assessments in lieu of tests of cladding systems have been criticised for their lack of supporting data. An assessment in lieu of test should be an extrapolation or interpolation of relevant existing test data, not an estimate. Questions have been raised over the competence of some assessment authors. The Government is proposing to issue amendments to Appendix A of Part B of the building regulations which will clarify the existing text and create new requirements for assessment in lieu of tests.

The Government has commissioned the British Standards Institution (BSI) to draft a standard for the extended application of BS8414 results.

Two scenarios are being considered:

  1. Make no changes to Approved document B to restrict the use of assessments in lieu of tests
  2. Issue amendments to Appendix A of approved document B and implement the changes which are being consulted on.

Alternatively, they could prohibit assessments for all fire tests or those specifically relating to BS8414.

The impact assessments predict a 25% increase in the cost of undertaking a more rigorous assessment in lieu of test in option 2, there being more assessments in lieu of tests as there will be greater confidence in them. The calculated impact of implementing proposed change to document B is £8.0m.

It should be noted that fire tests do not directly measure fire hazard. Performance in fire tests is only one of a number of factors that should be taken into account.

The policy objective is to tighten up the use of assessments in lieu of tests and ensure they are only used where appropriate with sufficient relevant test evidence, and they are undertaken by competent staff within appropriately certified organisations.

INCA’s position is that there should be least assessments in lieu of tests and more full-scale tests, which would reduce the potential for substituting products and increasing the risk of compromising the original system. There may be some requirement for minor changes such as fixing numbers or manufacturer, or different coloured finishes.

We welcome the input from our members before we respond to the consultation. We will be responding on Tuesday 22nd May.

The Independent Review of Building Regulations – What can we expect from the Hackitt Review?

Anna Wesson, INCA Manager

On Tuesday 8 May, INCA was represented at the Build UK Industry Response Group briefing. The Industry Response Group is a panel of Government and Industry experts who have met weekly since the fire at Grenfell Tower to understand the impact of the disaster on the construction industry, and the steps that can be taken to mitigate any issues.

A number of speakers attended the event, including Rob Leach from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Graham Watts from the Construction Industry Council (CIC). However the presentation that will be most interesting to members was given by Andrew Pattison who is part of Dame Judith Hackitt’s team. He is part of the Independent Review of Building Regulations.

It is likely, though unconfirmed, that the Review will be released next week. Andrew explained that we can expect a review that is systemic in its perspective and that reflects the need for every part of the construction ‘system’ to change. We can also, as anticipated, expect a report that is a starting point to effect a culture change in construction, rather than a list of actions or obligations.

The report is likely to advocate a reinvigorated regulator, ensuring more effective regulatory oversight of construction, occupation and maintenance. This, it will be argued, should be supported by a stronger enforcement and sanctions package that supports culture change.

Further to this, the report is likely to point to the need for clear responsibilities throughout the supply chain, for clients, designers, contractors and those involved in a building’s construction through to occupation. The change is needed for residents to be safe and feel safe in their homes.

Dame Judith’s report is likely to contain some further recommendations for the construction industry. These will have significant implications for members.

They include:

  • More demanding competence requirements for those carrying out building works
  • A more robust testing regime with increased traceability
  • Ensuring that those who are responsible for meeting building regulations are clear on the suitability of materials
  • Robust change control mechanisms and information management during design, construction and occupation.

Clearly some of the changes that we can expect from the report can be driven by industry. Others will need legislation that must be written by the Government. The message that we can expect to hear loudly when the Review is published is that wholesale culture change in construction is required. INCA must consider what this means for our members. We’d like to hear your views on this, the future of construction and the external wall insulation industry.

The ECO 3 Consultation – Will there be any surprises?

Mitch Gee, Executive Chairman

Meeting with BEIS – 12 February 2018

The ECO 3 consultation is almost upon us. It is expected to be circulated at the end of February with a six-week consultation period. As soon as it is published we will circulate to members.

INCA is delighted to announce that Richard Mellish, Deputy Director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will speak at our members’ meeting. It will be held at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham, close to the NEC on 22 March. At this meeting, we would like INCA members to have the opportunity to ask questions, and provide the government with feedback on the consultation. If the timings proceed as expected, members should have a couple of weeks to digest the papers and prepare your questions or comments.

What do we know already?

1. ECO 3 will not contain any CERO, and funding will be targeted at the fuel poor. The eligible pool will be widened to 6.5 million, including those on disability benefits and child benefits under a certain income threshold. Flexibility will be increased to make it easier to combine funding with other forms of funding or capital investment. This will include 50% for infills and 10% allowance for referrals. In addition, BEIS is looking to simplify rules around high rise, which are currently complex.

2. In ECO 3 there will be a solid wall minimum and the size of this will no doubt be a point of contention. There is obviously a budget cost for the deliverance of ECO, and we know that though solid wall is one of the more easily accessible measures in the fuel poor sector, it is also one of the most expensive. The balance of measures will be critical, and the input and views of INCA members is important.

3. BEIS will be trying to drive innovation by introducing an uplift on carbon for new innovations in the sector. This may concentrate the minds of system holders.

4. There will be reference to ECO past 2022 as there is a real desire to iron out the peaks and troughs in the market. A cap will remain on boilers but may be increased if it can be linked with insulation measures.

5. There will be reference to the quality mark to continue to drive up quality of installation.

6. There will be an allowance for carry over but this will also be capped.

Local authorities who have provided a statement of intent to work with utilities to deliver ECO.

If you have any comments you wish to make regarding your views on the direction of ECO, please get in touch.