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The Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) has welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report can be viewed here. The GAI is the only trade body in the UK that represents the interests of the whole architectural ironmongery industry - architectural ironmongers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

The Hackitt Review was established shortly after the Grenfell Tower fire, and has focused primarily on improving fire safety in higher risk residential buildings (HRRB’s) and other complex buildings such as multi-occupancy residential buildings and institutional residential buildings. The final report is scathing in its assessment of the “race to the bottom” culture which pervades the construction industry, stating it is through “ignorance, indifference, or because the system does not facilitate good practice”. The report sets out a new regulatory framework which “must address all of these weaknesses if there is to be a stronger focus on creating and maintaining safe buildings.”

The GAI submitted a number of its members’ own recommendations to the Review during the call for evidence consultation process with wider industry in October 2017 and is pleased that many of these points have been taken up in the final report. These include;

1. The importance of fire doors.– One of the over-arching messages passed on by the GAI through its members’ recommendations is to reinforce the message that fire doors are in themselves a “life safety product”. It is pleasing to the GAI that strong emphasis on fire doors is made in the report including the recommendation that “residents should ensure that they install an appropriate fire door if they choose to replace their front door and that any maintenance work that they commission is done by persons who are competent”. The GAI is a strong advocate of ensuring that fire doors are properly specified, inspected and maintained as well as fitted with all appropriate, correct and compliant ironmongery.

2. Increased emphasis on competence – The GAI’s education portfolio has been developed over 50 years and is the only recognised programme in the world that leads to a qualification in architectural ironmongery to British and European standards. This is in the form of its highly respected DipGAI Diploma course as well as the RegAI CPD scheme which demonstrates commitment to continuing professional development. The GAI also provides timely technical updates to its membership on relevant product standards, codes of practice, building regulations and fire related safety.

3. Higher commitment to continuous improvement to standards and test procedures – The GAI have long been an intrinsic part of standards-making, both at BS and EN level and welcome the recommendation of increased commitment to industry with this process.

4. Significantly reduced scope for substitution of any products used in a system without further full testing.– GAI quoted one of its members in its submission as follows: “Architects will take advice from Architectural Ironmongers at scheduling time but specifications are often broken in the name of economy by a contractor” This so called “value-engineering” is, unfortunately, endemic throughout the construction process so any means of discouraging this process is to be broadly welcomed.

5. Greater importance given to third party certification – The report states “Manufacturers of construction products used in buildings where performance standards apply should ensure that products are retested at regular periods (at least every three years). They should also ensure that this testing is verified by an independent third-party certification body.” The GAI pressed for mandatory third-party testing of products which are related to fire safety through schemes such as Certifire. Whilst this has not been specifically mandated, the stronger push in the final report towards third-party certification is greatly welcomed.

6. Clerk of Works.– The report has stated that “more clients may seek to utilise a Clerk of Works type role to act as their eyes and ears throughout the construction process”. This was one of the key recommendations of GAI, noting that “The role of inspecting the workmanship, quality and safety of work on site and then reporting findings to the client has largely been lost and this results in many errors in installation which would have been caught on site now being passed.” Encouragement of clients to use a Clerk of Works is seen by the GAI as a step in the right direction and would support higher quality installation across the board.

7. Greater clarity of Approved Documents.– (1) The Hackitt Report recommends that a radical design and content review of the current suite of Approved Documents using the Crystal Clear (plain English) standard or similar be carried out. The GAI noted in its submissions that the “Approved Documents should be revised to remove ambiguities and be much clearer to understand.”

8. Greater clarity of Approved Documents.– (2) The GAI also recommended that Approved Documents in general should be written in such a way that the requirements of each one do not contradict another. In the final report it now recommends setting out how the functional requirements of each Approved Document interact with each other.

9. Inspection and maintenance of fire doors.– Whilst the GAI proposed that the inspection and maintenance of fire doors should be mandatory under Building Regulations as is the case in Australia and USA, the Hackitt Report does not go as far as this. It does, however state that “for all residents and for landlords of properties in HRRBs, their obligations extend to ensuring that fire compartmentation from the inside of a flat, including the front doors, is maintained to a suitable standard.” Whilst the preference would be for mandating fire door inspection and maintenance, and enshrining it in building regulation, it is a step in the right direction and the GAI strongly recommends regular inspection and maintenance of this vital element of passive fire protection in a building. The GAI are proud co-owners of the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS).

10. Adoption of BIM – The Review recommends that for new builds, a Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach should be phased in. The GAI have been highly vocal in its support of BIM and have provided 35 BIM product data templates to its members so they can provide Product Data Sheets to deliver their product information in a structured manner to architects and contractors.

In addition to the publication of the Hackitt Report, MHCLG have also recently published specific guidance entitled “advice for building owners on assurance and replacing of flat entrance fire doors”. Many of the points made in this document overlap significantly with the report and are also welcomed by the GAI including;

  • 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 closer on all fire doors.
  • Flat entrance fire doors should have test evidence demonstrating they meet the performance requirement in Building Regulations guidance1 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.
  • The Expert Panel advise that third party certification by a UKAS accredited body can provide landlords and building owners greater assurance on the performance of the doors.

  • To further emphasise, any Government recommendations which endorse best practice in the realm of construction, with particular regard to safety of fire door and associated product (including ironmongery) in specification, installation, inspection and maintenance is broadly welcomed by the GAI and its membership. The GAI looks forward to these proposals being set in motion at the earliest opportunity.

    For your downloadable copy of this report please click here

    Douglas Masterson B.A.(Hons) DipGAI, MInstAI, RegAI
    GAI Technical Manager