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Are you confident that you are specifying the right product for the job?

How confident are you that the product you are specifying or conducting maintenance on is what you believe it to be? Are you certain the evidence supporting that product covers the purpose you are specifying it for? Do you truly know and comprehend the significance of the evidence and what it means? Fire and Certifications Director, Peter Long identifies a few of the areas where our industry is falling down when it comes to specifying fire rated products.

In the construction industry’s lengthy supply chain, there is a chance that the compliance message will be miscommunicated, misinterpreted, or even just ignored.

Manufacture to installation: the possibility of misinterpretation

Consider fire-resistant glass partitioning systems as an example. These typically originate from a system house in continental Europe that has a collection of fire test evidence which is classified, through extended application, in accordance with EN 13501-2. Theoretically, this is great and meets UK regulatory requirements. However, these classified applications are limited, geared towards a European architectural framework, and frequently inappropriate for project designs in this country.

By the time the product reaches the job in the building, it may have gone through a distributor, a fabricator, and a specialised subcontractor. Each link in the chain may be applying their own interpretation of what the classification and data from the fire test permits. Additionally, they might be using door hardware promoted as being appropriate for fire doors, but whose marketing materials do not specify which type of fire door. Door hardware is frequently put through a fire test on timber doors, which are entirely distinct, but are rarely tested with metal-framed, fully glazed fire doors.

Lack of information in fire assessments leaves room for misunderstanding

In the UK, third-party assessment often serves as the way to underwrite applications that are not specifically covered by the primary evidence, in order to meet the desire for expansive interior glazing. The rules of assessment now demand a basis in solid, applicable test data and evidence. This means the appropriate application has a very specific set of requirements, but these aren’t always explicitly stated in the text, making it easy for users to infer something that isn’t actually there.

Are you answering the important questions?

How can you be certain that no one across the supply chain interpreted the data incorrectly after the product has been installed? Have they permitted the screen’s general dimensions or the door’s certification to be exceeded? Is it fixed to the proper kind of supporting construction on all four sides? Are you installing or replacing any extra hardware that is not directly relevant to the type of door, such as electronic access control or an operator, and has it been tested? To ensure that the specified product complies with all applicable fire and safety regulations and is suitable for its intended use, answers to all of these significant questions are required.

No quick fix

There is no easy solution to this problem. The different initiatives currently being implemented across the supply chain will help to increase competency, but it will take time. In the interim, specifiers at the top of the chain would benefit from independently examining the supporting evidence at the beginning of the process to make sure that its veracity is not compromised as it moves down the supply chain. Before you decide to use or alter a product, be sure that its supporting evidence is an exact match for the project application.

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