The EU needs one harmonised façade fire test, say international fire experts

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The EU needs one harmonised façade fire test, say international fire experts

The EU needs one harmonised, large-scale and performance-based fire test for building façades. This is the result of a survey launched by Fire Safe Europe to gather world-leading experts’ thoughts and opinions on façades fire test methods.

The survey was carried out at the second International Seminar for Fire Safety of Façades in Lund, from May 11 to 13 2016. The conference was organised by CSTB and SP Fire Research Sweden, and gathered over 100 fire engineers, scientists, academics, testing institutes representatives, manufacturers and regulators from more than 20 countries to discuss research results and share ideas on fire safety of facades.

Half of the attendees replied to Fire Safe Europe’s survey on test methods, revealing strong areas of agreement, as shown by the figures below.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 15.46.31No agreement could be reached by participants on which of the available fire test methods would be the most appropriate to base a harmonised European façade test on.

Façade fire test and classification were also the focus of an introductory workshop sessions, which triggered a dynamic discussion on the reliability of the available test methods, and highlighted some key points:

  • Building facades are complex systems, where different materials and installation techniques can play a role in case of fire. Therefore, façade systems should be tested as a whole in a scenario representative of real life fire exposure, and not in small or intermediate tests that cannot challenge the system.
  • The list of available façade tests is long, and constantly added on and revised. These different test methods respond to a plethora of regulations on facades requirements in the EU and all over the world. However, fires are everywhere the same.
  • Both fire resistance and reaction to fire should be considered as criteria.
  • Different countries have different needs and experiences related to fire, and a harmonized test method should be able to address all of these.

What emerges from the workshop and the survey is a general agreement that façade test methods and classification in the EU need harmonisation.

The survey results show a strong preference among fire experts for one harmonised, large-scale and performance-based fire test, covering scenarios of fire originating from inside the room as well as from outside.

Both the workshop discussions and the survey results indicate that a harmonised test could hardly be chosen among the long list of existing façade fire tests. EU Member States developed diverse fire regulations and test methods on the basis of their particular needs and experience with fire. To avoid getting stuck on specific national testing methods, the harmonisation work should start with scoping those needs and investigating all possible ways to satisfy them through existing tests, a large-scale test, classification systems as well as direct and extended application of test results. This process should then lead to the development of a broadly accepted large-scale test and classification for facades.