The demand for regulatory testing in the UK continues to grow while the construction industry awaits the publication of the Independent Review of Construction Products Testing.
Neil Smith, senior key account executive at UL Solutions, explains how the industry can collaborate to meet this demand.
Anneliese Day QC and Paul Morrell OBE are leading the review. The review will present its findings on construction product testing and how results can be used for product safety.
The Fire Testing Capacities Issues in UK
New guidance, regulations and best practices in the industry have created new expectations for some of the most critical stakeholders in the fire industry, including manufacturers and contractors.
Since June 2017, the industry has experienced many changes, which means that businesses are under pressure to keep up with growing demands for certification and testing in fire safety.
To maintain their competitive edge in a changing industry, companies must ensure their products conform to new legislations such as BS476-31.1. This allows for the measurement of smoke penetration and helps increase product safety.
Non-compliance can lead to more severe problems for businesses. A new National Regulator for Construction Products, part of the Building Safety Act, will be established by the Office of Product Safety and Standards.
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It will be able to take any product off the market that poses a severe safety risk and prosecute and penalize companies who violate the rules.
Companies must be sure that their products are safe and compliant. The Grenfell Inquiry focused a lot on marketing testing products for construction. In some cases, out-of-date test results were used. The wording of the reports needed to be more specific.
Manufacturers could also exploit regulatory loopholes to suggest that combustible materials are part of larger systems. To prevent safety uncertainty from happening again, it is essential to protect residents of multi-story buildings and enforce a permanent change within the fire industry.
Also, the rate of regulatory testing changes is affected by rising fire testing demand. Due to testing capacity issues, the deadline to change from the CE marking to the UKCA marking was moved to January 2025.
This is two years later than initially suggested. This deadline has been extended for construction products to 30 June 2025.
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Manufacturers are worried about the uncertainty surrounding testing requirements. Non-UK companies may need help to comply with UK regulations and decide to withdraw from the market.
This will make it more difficult for them to source the full range of previously available products in the UK.
The Hackitt report
Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt has significantly impacted the fire regulatory industry and government legislation.
According to the report, “the product testing, labelling, and marketing system is at most as complex as the entire regulatory system.”
Grenfell Inquiry revealed that the cladding system used for combustible materials met all safety requirements according to previous testing regimes.
Standardizing and simplifying the UK regulatory process is crucial to allow the fire industry to install safer products without confusion or loopholes.
Hackitt Review also concluded that “significant additional work […]is required in order to create a comprehensive program that ensures all products used for construction are properly tested, certified, and certified.”
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End users and suppliers will continue to demand proof of compliance. These changes will continue to affect the fire industry, particularly in product development and testing.
It can also be used to support end users by providing a “golden thread”, which contains quality information that will benefit future building owners.
Owners can use information about product safety during installation to manage their buildings’ safety and evaluate the effects of future maintenance and refurbishment decisions.
The Building Safety Regulator was introduced.
As part of building safety reforms, the Hackitt report’s recommendations led to establishment of the Building Safety Regulator.
One of the most significant reforms was to identify duty holders. Individuals or businesses can have clear accountability and statutory responsibility when buildings are designed, built, renovated, and occupied.
Customers, designers, principals designers, contractors, and principal contractors are all responsible for preventing building risks and reducing any severe incidents.
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BSR is now also the building control authority for high-rise buildings. It will enforce mandatory reporting of prescribed and structural fire occurrences via the new gateway system.
Companies will be held accountable for their actions in the construction and maintenance of buildings, and it will reduce the chance that they will pass the blame on to others.
The duty holders must show that the building products they specify comply with the regulations and provide strong test evidence.
Improving the UK
The fire industry is still facing regulatory changes. Testing providers like UL Solutions are responding to these changing requirements. Fire testing companies need to expand their testing facilities to provide more access to British businesses in the UK.
They must also meet growing demands for proof of compliance from UK and non-UK companies that will need to conform to future post-Brexit regulations for selling to UK businesses.
UL Solutions partnered with the Fire Protection Association (FPA) to meet increasing testing demand. UL Solutions invested in new fire resistance test furnaces at Blockley’s FPA laboratory.
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These new facilities will reduce the time required to test products for fire resistance. This process forms the basis of UK regulations and third-party product certification.
Jonathan O’Neill OBE (Managing Director of the FPA) stated that manufacturers and system providers will now have access to the certifications and tests required by UK regulations and will be able to meet the requirements of regulators worldwide.
The fire testing industry must work together to meet the growing fire resistance testing demand.
Order will increase as new regulations and guidance are introduced over the next few decades. Businesses need quick and easy access to testing to be compliant and safer.