Façades – Towards a harmonised testing method
The façades of our buildings have significantly evolved due to the many innovations in the building sector and many countries have struggled to keep regulations up to speed with innovation.
The past decade has seen several façade fires in the EU. In many of these fires, rapid flashover and fire spread as well as intense smoke production was observed.
As a result, several EU countries have updated their regulations. However, there is no harmonised testing method for façade systems in the EU, and the methods and regulations currently used at national level in the member countries differ greatly.
Determined to raise awareness and find solutions on this issue, Fire Safe Europe (FSEU) and several partners conducted in 2014 façades tests in Croatia and Finland to show the difference in how different façade systems burned.
The following year, in 2015, Fire Safe Europe (FSEU) organised together with MEP Catherine Stihler a high-level discussion in the European Parliament to discuss construction methods under the Construction Products Regulation.
Following this, the European Commission DG GROW launched in early 2017 a study aimed at developing a European approach to assess the fire performance of building façades. The study published in late August 2018, proposes two approaches. One of the approach, the “proposed” approach, consists in the adoption of a British test (BS8414) and a German test (DIN 4102 part 20). The other approach, labelled in this study the “alternative” approach, was developed by the contractor, RISE, to address shortcomings presented by current approaches and offers strong improvements to the British and German test methods.
Fire Safe Europe (FSEU) organised on 26 October 2018 a webinar to explain what it is important to “choose the right method“. The webinar has addressed: which assessment method is better suited to assess the fire performance of facades in buildings and how important it is to have an assessment method that can adequately reflect real life fire scenarios. You can replay it on FSEU’s youtube channel.
Fire Safe Europe (FSEU) is strongly in favour of the “alternative” method as the “proposed” approach will not guarantee a good level of fire safety. FSEU also stresses that the two tests proposed in the “proposed” approach (BS8414 and DIN 4120-20) are both highly contested, especially for not replicating real-life conditions and not sufficiently representing external fire risks when assessing facade fire performance. Importantly, BS8414 is being revised in the UK and DIN 4102 part 20 has been supplemented with an additional test method in Germany. Keeping a testing method and classification based on BS8414 and DIN 4102 would give an unfair market competitive advantage to UK and Germany based companies. Additionally, it would increase costs and complexity, making it difficult for users to understand the classifications and limitations.
The “alternative” approach championed by FSEU offers strong improvements to the “proposed” approach. First and foremost, it would better reflect real-life fire scenarios, with improved performance criteria, a simpler and clearer classification system. For instance, secondary openings are included in the assessment, such as windows for façades.
FSEU believes the “alternative” approach is the one that will maximise EU citizens’ fire safety and should be tested through a Round Robin. FSEU will take advantage of the opportunity for EU member states to voice their opinion before final decision-making to support the “alternative” approach at national and European level.
Fire Safe Europe (FSEU) explains very well its position through a series of capsules titled “Once upon time”. Check them out on FSEU’s youtube channel.
- FSEU position paper “Getting façades fire performance assessment right for Europe”
- Press release “European Commission proposes two approaches to assess the fire performance of building façade”
- Press Release on the UK Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety
- FSEU Blog post on the UK Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety
- Press Statement “Urgent recommendations for EU policy changes following Grenfell Tower fire”
- A Year of change: Taking stock of the evolution of fire safety requirements in buildings throughout Europe
- FSEU Blog post on façades fire safety, how do countries compare
- FSEU’s Newsletter September 2016 “Will the European Commission pull façades out of the fire?”
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