The British Standards Institute (BSI) issued a draft version of PAS (publicly available standard) 9980: Fire risk evaluation and assessment of existing block of flats’ external wall structure and cladding last week.
The length of the title implies that it will not be succinct, and at 182 pages, you will need a free weekend to read it all for the first time.
Of course, this is a severe problem, and the length and complexity of the text are justified. All those who worked on it should be credited for completing the draft in such a short amount of time. Fire event case studies, a history of fire safety legislation and standards, and a glossary of terminologies are included. These will be of interest and value to many in the business.
Some multi-occupancy residential building owners have been anxiously awaiting the draft standard so that they may begin to grasp if the external walls of their buildings provide a low or tolerable risk and will or will not require rehabilitation.
The standard is not intended to assist in demonstrating conformity with the Building Regulations or any other regulation or standard. It is also not intended to replace the EWS1 form, as some may have assumed when the standard was first issued. As a result, it is possible that mortgage lenders will not seek an EWS1 form for structures with external walls that are considered to offer minimal or acceptable risks utilising the PAS9980 assessment method.
Those conducting external wall evaluations must insist on adopting PAS 9980 – and the assessors they hire must be appropriately qualified and not simply claim to be.
FR Consulting aims to provide a standard technique that can be used consistently to assess the risk of fire spread across all exterior wall evaluations and help people receiving the assessments better comprehend the findings and associated concerns.
The standard includes a fire risk appraisal and assessment of exterior walls (the “FRAA”), which will feed into the Fire Safety Order’s fire risk assessment and, presumably, the future safety case necessary for higher structures. It is crucial to highlight that the norm applies to all multi-occupancy residential structures, not simply those exceeding 18m in height. It may be applied to other related building types such as student and specialised housing.
The draft standard defines risk as a mix of the possibility of external fire spread, secondary fires and tenable escape circumstances, and effective fire service response. There will be three risk categories: low, medium, and high. Medium risk is considered a bearable danger, although it may need some rehabilitation or extra fire safety measures to bring the building up to this risk category. High risk will necessitate additional investigation, most likely fire engineering analysis, which may include some remediation of the external walls.
The whole exterior wall construction, spandrel panels, attachments including balconies, fire dangers and risks, the surroundings of the building, escape routes from the building, and fire service access will all be considered by the FRAA. It is a comprehensive evaluation procedure that highly qualified assessors must carry out. The draft PAS outlines the competency expectations and a thorough process for carrying out the evaluations.
It should be noted that the current standard is a draft and may change before its formal release in the late summer of this year.
We can be sure that where the PAS is followed, exterior wall evaluations will be more comprehensive and accurate, even though the procedure is subjective. More must be done to ensure that people contracting exterior wall evaluations insist on using PAS 9980 when issued and that those they engage as assessors are suitably qualified rather than claiming to be if you have any confusion regarding PAS9980, contact Facade Consultants.