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New fire test alliance aims to shake up market

12 July 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: Dreamstime.com

A new international alliance aims to improve the facade fire-testing market in the UK, by increasing both the capacity and quality of large-scale fire testing of cladding and building systems.

The US-based global safety science business UL, which has nine sites across the UK, and the UK Fire Protection Association (FPA) have announced that they will be working together after signing a cooperation agreement aimed at transforming the testing and certification of facades and building envelope products within the UK itself.

Currently, the only UK-based facilities capable of testing facades for fire resistance are booked up for at least the next six months, driving many building product manufacturers to seek testing and accreditation outside of the UK.

The UL / FPA alliance will include an investment by UL in the FPA’s existing fire test and research facilities, enhancing the capability and broadening the scope of testing available to developers, social landlords, specifiers and manufacturers.

UL plans to offer product testing and certification from within the facilities’ test lab.

British Standard to change

Significant changes are expected to the current British Standard (BS 8414) cladding test following a detailed critique of that standard by the FPA’s testing and research team earlier this year, commissioned by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). UL will test and certify to this updated standard.

Chris Hasbrook, vice president and general manager of UL’s building and life safety technologies division, said: "UL is committed to increasing the facade fire testing capacity in the UK as well as the quality of those tests, an area of weakness highlighted by the independent review led by Dame Judith Hackitt. We will ensure we play our part in rebuilding public confidence in a robust, reliable and real-life testing regime.”

Jonathan O’Neill, managing director of the Fire Protection Association, said: "Teaming up with the world class team at UL offers FPA an unrivalled opportunity. UL’s mission and expertise perfectly complements our own, and its global presence ensures our customers gain barrier-free access to world markets.

"The Hackitt Review confirmed problems in the UK fire testing market. This new venture aims to deliver the level of quality, expertise and experience required."

James Dalton, director of policy at the ABI added: "The ABI commissioned the FPA earlier this year to review the current cladding testing regime of BS 8414, and it was found seriously lacking in five areas. This testing regime is not fit for purpose, so we welcome this partnership to improve fire safety testing and certification. We need multiple lines of defence to ensure the safety of all buildings in the future, not just high-rise blocks."

In addition to testing and certification of building systems to UK, EU and USA requirements, UL will be able to offer building envelope inspection services and additional forensic services for building owners concerned about cladding, insulation and other materials.

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