The Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF)’s Fire-Resistant Glazing Group (FRGG) is committed to the development and advancement of best practice in the manufacture, testing, specification, application and installation of fire-resistant glazed systems. The FRGG’s goal is to achieve the optimum fire protection in the UK’s buildings given the vulnerability of standard glass products to fire exposure, the uncertainties of fire and the importance of glass in today’s buildings.
Fire-resistant glazing is a passive fire protection (PFP) product; as it does not need any special actioning or command signal to operate in the case of a fire. Passive fire protection measures are long-lasting and require little, if any, maintenance and provide excellent protection for both lives and property in the event of fire.
Concerns over Fire Safety Engineering
The cost of testing fire-resistant glass and glazing systems is a significant but necessary investment in helping to ensure that installed glazed systems are fit for their intended purpose, i.e. to prevent fire from spreading rapidly, protect occupants along safe escape routes and provide safe firefighter access. However, in an increasing number of cases these specific systems are being “engineered out” by Fire Safety Engineers, who are often intentionally substituting these measures with alternatives, or taking them out altogether, based on unwarranted assumptions made without specific reference to applicable system test evidence to support them.
The FRGG believes that fire safety engineers are not sufficiently challenged to justify and validate replacement measures. The FRGG, as the UK’s glazing industry centre of expertise for glass and fire, is customarily not consulted in such cases, and believes that the practice of fire safety engineering must be more transparent, exposed to peer review and constructive input from other stakeholders in the fire safety sector who have the core interest in advancing fire safety practice.
Compliance with established practice
The Lakanal House fire tragedy demonstrates the potentially severe consequences of placing materials without a properly evaluated fire performance at risk of significant fire exposure. The fire environment is a hostile one for all materials and the occurrence and development of fire is unpredictable and subject to chance. It is therefore critical that the specification, selection, and installation of fire-resistant glazed systems are all carried out with close attention to detail. It is also vital that these steps are correctly enforced at all points along the supply chain, including traceability of the individual glazing products and confirmation that they are made to a suitable and appropriate precise property specification.
However, there is no overarching body to check competency, and as a result each part of the work stream has, essentially, to be self-regulating.
The importance of test evidence
Applicable guidance in Approved Document B (AD B) requires that the material, product or structure as installed should be in accordance with an applicable design or specification that has been shown by test to be capable of meeting the desired performance, as claimed. AD B requires that the performance in terms of fire resistance for elements of structure, doors and other constructions be determined by reference to either British or European tests. That requirement is rigorously met by
fire-resistant glazed systems provided by members of the FRGG under Best Practice Rules introduced and endorsed by the FRGG.
This is not the case, however, for substitute systems that are being increasingly introduced by fire safety engineers, which are not validated by equivalent standard test methods under much lower levels of product responsibility and system control - in effect asking those who own and occupy buildings and authorities, who may be asked to take on fire safety responsibilities, to take fire performance on trust.
The FRGG has developed a five point code of core governing principles for all glass and glazing system products that have the stated purpose for safety in case of fire, as follows:
- The glazed element - as designed and specified to be installed, including named components - must be tested as an applicable system, under scrutiny by a notified test body according to approved common test standards.
- The system as installed must faithfully follow the relevant approval, based on either test or assessment referred to applicable and suitable test evidence, carried out by an accredited notified body.
- The main components (e.g. glass and sealants) of the glazed system must be produced to a defined individual product specification including the key individual product properties, confirmed by the manufacturer.
- The manufacturer must be able to demonstrate that they operate the appropriate production quality control system to consistently meet that defined specification.
- The scope of application of the proposed glazed system must be backed up by properly constituted independent third party certification schemes, including the necessary provision for product independent auditing if necessary.
How you can help
The FRGG believe that whilst industry is capable of policing itself, there does need to be government and industry support for adherence to these principles in order for this to be effective. We are therefore seeking your support for and endorsement of these principles.
PFP measures, including fire-resistant glazing, are vital in ensuring the UK has a safe building stock which is able to minimise damage to property in the event of a fire. The effects of fire safety engineering and a lack of enforcement are problems which could have a significant impact on the safety of our buildings, however with support for these principles from industry and government the FRGG believes that we can create a safe and stable built environment.
For further information please contact Kevin Hulin, Chair of the Fire Resistant Glazing Group: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel 01252 333601