Any steelwork specialist, involved in either residential or commercial projects will understand that structural fire engineering methods are an area of the construction and planning which cannot be compromised.
A new initiative which aims to bridge best practice gaps when it comes to even the most complex of steelwork projects has been created by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Association of Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP). Designed to provide a detailed specification for fire protection at the early design stages, the plan of work for fire also provides steelworks specialists with an advised schedule to manage fire protection continuously throughout the process of construction.
Mandatory sign-off process
The new process will look to implement a more rigorous and mandatory sign-off procedure. As the construction processes gain momentum, all mandatory sign-offs will be concentrated together in order to provide the end users with a comprehensive fire risk management document.
We can also expect to soon have visibility of a guide created by the ASFP, British Coatings Federation and a technical sub-group. Intumescent coatings are used in order to offer more flexibility to architects when it comes to designing a building, these can offer the capability to create shaped and glazed structures including those with steel frames remaining visible.
These coatings offer protection to the construction materials and are considered ‘life-safety’ coatings, which must be applied to the correct thickness in order to be effective. Failure to apply these to the right thickness can result in inadequate fire protection and therefore a threat to life. The guide will provide best practise guidance in relation to specifying any reactive coatings, including checklists to assist specifiers.
Improved lines of communications
Supply chain communications may not always be as seamless and transparent as required to ensure they are effective. With various supply chain parties involved, many steelwork specialists may struggle to ensure that messages and instructions have been communicated and received as desired. With the supply chain involving so many individuals, including design, specifiers, suppliers, installers and building control, misunderstanding within the supply chain can result in big issues, particularly when it comes to managing the protection of the steel structure. Where assumptions are potentially being made, particulate in situations to gain a competitive advantage or solve a problem can result in a potential risk to life in the future.
Ultimately, the existing Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that the people responsible for the safety of the commercial buildings, this includes; owners, employers and anyone with control over part of the premises must ensure that detailed fire risk and assessments are carried out. The risk and hazard assessment will need to be carried out by a qualified professional or specialist such as a fire engineer, following this, the owners must ensure that any fire safety measures are implemented to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life.
Overall, steelwork supply chains for construction means will need to boost their communication efforts and ensure that corners are never cut in order to meet deadlines or reduce costs. When considering the risk posed by a failure to correctly manage resources and coatings, including measurements and calculations, the potential outcome is a far too greater loss to justify the means. In the future we may see a more prescriptive approach, potentially integrated into existing Building Regulations (ABD), to ensure that the entire industry is harbouring greater collaboration across supply chains.