Facilities Managers – Burning Issue for Building Maintenance

Posted: 8th July 2021

Dave Walker, technical director of Distinction Doors details the progress being made in the manufacture and supply of GRP composite fire doors, and key considerations for facilities managers in seeking fit-for-purpose performance, including install and maintenance. 

As stewards of the built environment, the FM industry is integral to improving and developing building safety.  Amongst the many vital responsibilities of a facilities manager is building repair and maintenance.  Nowhere is this more critical than with risk to life products such as fire doors.

Post-Grenfell there have been significant advances in the fire door industry, most notably with Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP) composite fire doors, including testing, third party certification and supply chain transparency.

At the heart of this overhaul is robust testing.  Under Appendix C: Fire doorsets of the latest version of Approved Document B ‘The requirement is for test exposure from each side of the doorset separately.’  One GRP composite fire door system supplier has raised the bar, satisfying not just the British Standard (BS 476-22 Fire resistance and smoke control tests for door and shutter assemblies, openable windows and elements of building hardware) but also the more demanding European test method standard BS EN 1634-1.

The company subjected 44 doorsets to 22 bi-directional fire tests.  The tests were conducted in three countries, using three variations of supporting wall construction – 150mm and 225mm rigid aerated block and flexible steel stud construction.

The test specimens included solid and glazed door leaf options, either with or without overhead fan lights and all doorsets were tested with letterplates, viewers and door closers included.  All featured auto-throw locks.

Every fire test was filmed.  The system achieved an average of 45 minutes integrity.

This level of commitment and robust testing has sent a clear message to the UK construction industry; you can achieve consistent fire resistance, compliance and peace of mind with GRP composite fire doors.   It also proves that we can meet recommendations outlined in the Building a Safer Future – Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report:

Recommendation 7.1: A clearer, more transparent and more effective specification and testing regime of construction products must be developed. This should include products as they are put together as part of a system.


Third Party Certification

Third party certification is required in many areas of UK construction, including gas and electricity, and yet there is no such thing for fire safety.  The demonstration of professional competence in fire safety is non-mandatory – And something which must be acknowledged by facilities managers.

In recent years several GRP composite fire door system houses, and members of the Association of Composite Door Manufacturers, have gained third party certification and taken control of their supply chain.  This not only significantly reduces risk but also promotes stake-holder confidence.  It also goes some way to meet the demand for improved product traceability.

One system supplier now insists that all stages of the supply chain up to and including doorset manufacture are third-party certified to the BM Trada Q-Mark Fire Door Manufacturer certification scheme. 

By choosing to mandate the supply chain, this system supplier has more autonomy than its competitors.  It can control all components apart from door closers and sealed units; however, these must match the tested specification.

Ultimately, this means there is less dilution of the product through the supply chain.  With this system, for example, the door blank and frame are pre-machined, so the hardware locates positively, the intumescent is pre-applied and the letterplate also features pre-applied intumescent.


Certified Installation

While progress has been made in the supply chain, there is still the matter of a competent installation and robust maintenance – both essential to consistent fire-resistant performance and critical in the life cycle of these products.

Some installation companies have recognised a demand for third party certification and have taken steps to achieve this.  The BM TRADA Q-Mark Fire Door Installation scheme has been ‘…designed to provide reassurance to specifiers, contractors and end users that the product they have chosen has been installed correctly and that it should perform as intended.’

Facilities, purchasing and building maintenance managers would do well to seek installation companies which meet the requirements of Q-Mark STD 052, and demonstrate competence in the installation of fire doors.  This can sometimes be the same supplier which fabricates the fire door – in reality, there is no one more competent.


Maintenance Matters

Long-term, maintenance is a crucial factor in the reliable and consistent performance of a fire door.  As a risk to life product, it is a duty of care.  A robust maintenance and auditing schedule is essential as are regular inspections, if we are to avoid another tragedy like Grenfell.

Of course, every entrance fire door is as important as the next but, due to the volume of people and high footfall, this is particularly important in multi-occupied residential buildings.

This is one area which the new Building Safety Bill as published in draft in 2020 hopes to address by empowering residents and improving transparency.

In Clause 83: requests for further information, the explanatory notes detail a recommendation that ‘…residents should automatically receive key building safety information…’ and that ‘…more detailed information about the safety of the building should be made available to any resident on request.’

This is yet to be set out in regulations but it is currently envisaged that further information will include:  full, current and historical fire risk assessments; planned maintenance and repairs schedules; outcome of building safety inspection checks; how assets in the building are managed; details of preventive measures; fire protection measures in place; information on the maintenance of fire safety systems; fire strategy for the building; structural assessments; and planned and historical changes to the building.

With this degree of transparency and ultimately, accountability, there would be no room wiggle room.  An effective fire door maintenance programme would be fundamental.


Building Safety Regulator

This accountability will be underpinned by the new Building Safety Regulator, formally named by the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

As an independent body, the HSE will ‘…oversee the safe design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings so that residents are safe and feel safe.  It will give ‘…expert advice to local regulators, landlords and building owners, the construction and building design industry, and to residents.’

The new building safety regulator was established in law ‘…in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster and following recommendations in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report by Dame Judith Hackitt.


Reproduced by kind permission of FM Publications Limited.

As featured in FMUK magazine.

Share This