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Some standards are missing

Some of the technical standards needed to ensure fire resistant and smoke control ventilation systems comply with safety regulations have not been published leading to confusion in the ductwork marketplace, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA)

With the sector under closer scrutiny than ever in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire and the subsequent Hackitt Review, the association has warned that building safety is being undermined by ductwork manufacturers, specifiers and contractors applying their own interpretations of what is compliant – many of which vary widely.

It also pointed out that there are currently no fire resistant duct sections available to the UK market that can be CE marked as the relevant test standards are not yet in place.

BESA, the ductwork trade body ADCAS and the Association of Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) have, therefore, joined forces to produce simplified guidance that can help the industry deliver safe solutions in compliance with the over-arching Construction Products Regulation (CPR) while awaiting the publication of updated standards.

‘Fire test standards and the CPR in relation to fire resisting ventilation and smoke control ductwork’ is a joint publication that explains the problem and provides an industry-wide position on compliance.

Since July 2013, it has been a legal requirement under the CPR to comply with any harmonised European product standard and provide tested products covered by that standard, the three bodies explained.

“With regards to fire resisting ventilation and smoke control duct sections not all the required standards are published and consequently this limits what can be supplied,” their guidance states.

Harmonised

This document lays out how the CPR applies to fire resisting ductwork; explains the relevant standards and the relationship between them as well as the current status of the EN standards and what this means to the industry.

It provides harmonised guidance the market can use while standards are revised and includes a series of FAQs. It concludes with a user-friendly reference table setting out the status of all the relevant standards and their implications for current projects. 

“Much of the industry is having to apply old standards while we wait for, in particular, the updated EN 15871, which is key to this whole area,” said BESA’s technical consultant Peter Rogers, who helped to write the guidance. 

“Fire resistant ductwork, for example, is not just ordinary ductwork with some additional coatings. Sadly, it is not as easy as that – there are some clear technical steps manufacturers must take to ensure their products are truly compliant and safe,” he added.

He explained that many people think they are providing the right specification when they are not – and this publication should help them “avoid making honest mistakes that could have major implications for building safety”. 

The availability of an industry-wide approach provides clarity and the three bodies have taken a common position on a number of key issues including the fact that fire resisting ductwork performance should be third party certified or CE marked, and installers should be third party certified to verify their competence.

“This publication is extremely timely in light of the Hackitt recommendations leading to the recently published draft Building Safety Bill, but this work was already underway because there was demand from members to clear up growing confusion about which standards to apply,” said BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox. 

“The industry coming together in this kind of collaborative undertaking to help improve standards and underpin safety is also very much in tune with the spirit of Hackitt.” 

14 October 2020

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