Grenfell – 2 years on

Two years after the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, fire safety in buildings remains under intense scrutiny.   Whilst the key focus following the fire was on the performance of the external cladding, subsequent investigation showed that the performance of the fire doors in the building were also implicated.  In this article we set out some of the key recommendations arising from the subsequent review and outline how Integrated Doorsets ensure compliance with these.

An independent review of building regulations and fire safety was commissioned by the Government in the immediate aftermath of the fire. The review was led by Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of EEF, and the findings were published in May 2018 in a report entitled ‘Building a Safer Future’ with the following key recommendations:

  • The establishment of a new regulatory framework focused, in the first instance, on multi-occupancy higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs) that are 10 storeys or more in height;
  • A new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to oversee better management of safety risks in these buildings (through safety cases) across their entire life cycle;
  • A new mandatory incident reporting mechanism for duty holders with concerns about the safety of a HRRB.

The Government agreed to implement the recommendations of the Review in full and The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) welcomed the news stating that “the plan is a much needed step forward for the industry, providing an effective regulatory framework and more accountability which will be supported by the introduction of clearer standards and guidance. Product safety performance and traceability will be key, with testing and certification intrinsic to driving this forward.”

In a follow up to the Review, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published further guidance in Advice Note 16 with the following recommendations:

  • All fire doors, including their closers, should be routinely checked or inspected by a suitably qualified professional.
  • Residents should be made aware of the importance of working self-closers on all fire doors.
  • Flat entrance fire doors should have test evidence demonstrating they meet the performance requirement in Building Regulations guidance for fire resistance and smoke control from both sides.
  • Test evidence used should be carefully checked to ensure it is to the same specifications of the doorsets being installed.
  • Landlords or building owners should replace flat entrance doorsets if they suspect they do not meet the fire or smoke resistance performance in the Building Regulations guidance. Fire risk assessment processes should be used to determine how urgently such doors should be replaced.

MHCLG also requested that Building Control Bodies check that test evidence is presented of exposures to fire for both sides of the door in order to demonstrate compliance with requirements of Approved Document B, however MHCLG  did not limit the advice to any one particular type of door construction.    In raising this note, MHCLG called into question the widely adopted methodology of testing any symmetrical timber door from the most onerous side and extending the scope of application of the test evidence, to cover the door designs for fire resistance from both sides by way of assessment. According to the BWF, this methodology of testing and assessing fire resisting doors has been in place for many years and is given as an approach in BS 476: Part 22: 1987 and BS EN 1634-1 when deciding on what direction to test a particular design of fire door (so it is the standard in the UK and across Europe).  Assessments of performance are listed as an acceptable approach to supporting the performance of products in Appendix A paragraph 1b in Approved Document B. All of the testing bodies and certification bodies have to date assessed systems using the methodology described above and therefore the vast majority of assessments supporting the scope of application for fire resisting doors are based on exposing the most onerous side of the door, so as to determine whether the fire resistance performance of the door assembly is adequate in both directions.  As a result, the implications of the advice from MHCLG remains unclear but Integrated Doorsets continue to carry out testing to ensure full compliance with the required regulations.  It should also be noted that the main door concerns arising from Grenfell concerned plastic GRP composite doors.  The Government’s extensive testing of timber fire doors revealed only good performances and there is no reason from that programme to question specialist timber fire doors.

Whilst installation, inspection and maintenance throughout the product life-cycle is paramount, product performance through manufacture and the compliance with regulations and certification is a key pre-requisite to fire safety.  The technical assessment evaluation process for timber fire doors based on test evidence is well-established over many years and there is no good reason identified to change that.  Integrated Doorset Solutions have the most comprehensive suite of third party evidence for the fire testing of timber doorsets using only UKAS registered assessment organisations such as Exova and BM Trada.  This derives from our own testing programme assembled over many years, where key door constructions have been tested both on one side and, where relevant, on both sides.  Our products comply with the stringent requirements of the Certifire and/or Q-Mark fire door certification schemes which gives the required assurance on the performance and compliance of our fire doors.

The requirements of the certification schemes ensure full traceability of fire doors with the application of a unique label affixed to the top of each door leave in the case of BWF Certifire approved doors and a plug device fitted to the side of the door in the case of Q-Mark.  This ensures that, once the fire doors have been fitted, each and every one can be traced, along with its original specification and certification, once installed.  Copies of our comprehensive certification and test reports can be downloaded from the Integrated Doorsets website here.

Another key advantage which is at the heart of the Integrated Doorsets approach is the supply of an integrated doorset system,  where door leaves, frames, glazing, seals and morticed ironmongery are manufactured and assembled in the factory in full accordance with our ISO9001 Quality Assurance procedures.  This provides a fully integrated assembly, ensuring the specification and certification is fully adhered to during manufacture and once the doorset has been fitted on site.  A factory made integrated doorset ensures that all components are compliant with the required certification and significantly reduces the need for alteration on site, which could compromise the performance of the door construction against the required certification and in the event of a fire.

In terms of ensuring ongoing performance and integrity of fire doors in-situ, Fire Door Safety Week has recommended a 5 Point Check for building managers:

  • Check for certification – is there a label or plug fixed to the door to show it is a certificated fire door?
  • Check the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently less than 4mm when closed. You can use a £1 coin to give a feel for scale, this is about 3mm thick. The gap under the door can be slightly larger (up to 8mm is not uncommon), but it does depend on the door – as a rule of thumb, if you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big.
  • Are there any intumescent seals around the door or frame, and are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are usually vital to the fire door’s performance, expanding if in contact with heat to ensure fire (and in some cases smoke) can’t move through the cracks
  • Are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws?
  • Check the door closes properly open the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. Does it close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame?

It is important that fire doors are checked regularly in accordance with this advice and Integrated Doorsets have a sister company, Fire Door Inspection Solutions Ltd,  that can carry out these checks and undertake remedial work if required.

Using our methodology of ‘Listen. Plan. Build. Deliver.’, you can be assured that the performance of our fire doors will be fully in accordance with the required specification for the project and fully compliant with the required regulations and standards.

For further information about Integrated Doorset Solutions product range, certification and inspection services, please see our website here or call us on 01623 343111.