Fire: What's changed in the last 5 years?

Image credit: Nothing Ahead

Ahead of our MSS Presents Fire seminar (27 April), we brought together a group of industry leaders to get a feel for where the built environment sector is on the subject.

Our aim was to address one question: What's changed in the last 5 years?

Here we share some of the insights that emerged from the conversation between Hannah Mansell, group technical director for Masonite companies in the UK (Premdor Crosby, DSI) ; Rachel Rogerson, director, Chapman Taylor, Peter Hegarty, associate director, Chapman Taylor; John Miles, group business development director, Assent Building Control; Paul Eatock, managing director, Eatock Design and Build; Andrew Gausden, former project manager building risk review programme, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service; and Paul Iddon, vice president, Manchester Society of Architects.

What's changed for built environment professionals?

"From our side, there's been a shift in client engagement. They want to be involved much earlier in the process - before any applications are made - and they want certainty. They also want to understand how systems work."

"Yes, it's not a completely changed landscape, but we are getting different questions asked upfront. It's all about the 'system'. Unfortunately, though, there's still a large percentage of stakeholders that want to go 'back to how it was before'."

"I agree, client education is key - the mindset needs to be that we can't do what we did 30 years ago. Desktop studies are no longer enough. Robust proof of combined systems is needed. But as architects, we must be there to hold the clients' hands. Explain things in layman's terms. And have patience."

"There's still a lack of understanding around Part B. We need to teach it to young architects at university level."

"To work with high rise buildings, you now need to prove competency in front of a board. This will be one of the outcomes of the Building Safety Bill which is going through parliament currently and will then require secondary legislation to enact such provisions."

What's changed for end users?

"From an end user perspective, there is mistrust. To restore confidence in residents, decades of work must be undone."

What factors could be changed or implemented for improvement?

For architects:

  • Material compliance assessed upfront
  • Move away from reliance on fire specialists to bring knowledge in-house at A&D firms
  • Bridging the gap between architect's vision and reality
  • Better CPDs on B5 - set the principles and open the door to continued learning

For material manufacturers:

  • Transparency and access to summary test evidence and certification
  • Marketing declarations held to legal standards

"Currently, 'risk adverse' culture is stifling progress."

"We need to put our foot down when it comes to testing. It costs money and takes time, but clients need to be educated."

"It's our duty as a team to educate our clients."

"Education, compliance and restoring confidence for end users."

An hour was just enough time to scratch the surface of this highly complex subject. We explored the topic further in our Fire seminar on 27 April. Stay tuned for the round up article.