In this day and age, it should be a given that any new-build building passes all the latest fire safety standards. However, increasing numbers of new-build developments are coming under scrutiny as it emerges that they’re not compliant with fire regulations, which can lead to costly investigations and expensive work needing to be carried out to put things right.
A case in point
A recent example of a high-profile building affected by this is Peterborough’s £289 million city hospital, which opened in 2010. It’s an impressive building, and is the biggest building project the city had seen since its cathedral was built more than 800 years ago. As such, it incorporates many innovative features and opened with great fanfare.
However, in October 2014 it transpired that safety checks of this flagship project had revealed problems with the ceiling voids, which potentially did not comply with the standards designed to stop the spread of smoke and flames.
This gave rise to the following urgent actions:
- a more detailed fire safety review across the whole hospital building
- remedial work to be carried out
- certain areas of the hospital having to be locked and closed while this was carried out
- a review of the hospital’s fire evacuation procedures
- training and awareness-raising on fire safety for staff
- notifying the fire service of the potential fire safety shortcomings in the building.
This is just one of a growing number of new-build projects, often flagship commercial developments, that turn out not to be compliant with fire regulations. It’s happened in several new schools in Merseyside too, for example. Of course, all this means more work for a company like Pro.Tek Interiors, but it can cause a lot of expense, inconvenience and bad publicity that could have been avoided in the first place.
How to make sure this doesn’t happen to you
The best way to make sure any new-build project is fully compliant with all fire regulations, is to engage the services of a specialist fire protection company at the earliest possible stage. Ideally this should be while the building is being designed, so that fire protection can be built into the structure of the development.
Many property managers or developers may be tempted to cut corners on this, but fire risk assessment and protection is a specialist and professional field – leaving it to anyone other than an expert is likely to prove a very false economy. It could mean you need extra building and structural work to be undertaken at the end of a project, and it could delay you being able to occupy the building for its intended purposes, potentially leading to further financial and reputational losses.
In order to be certain that fire protection is being kept to the fore in your development, these are some of the things to look for in a specialist fire protection service:
- a company that’s not tied to any particular brands or manufacturers – that way you can be sure any recommended products are based on your needs and not profit margins or targets
- highly trained and skilled staff – check that work isn’t sub-contracted out and that staff have the skills and expertise to tailor solutions to your unique requirements
- ability to work at all stages of a development, with all other contractors – be sure to check that your fire protection consultancy is used to working with other parties, such as architects, planners and builders, throughout all stages of a project
- experience of working on projects like yours – if it’s a large commercial development, make sure your chosen fire protection consultants have a pedigree in this kind of project.
When fire compliance is built into the earliest stages of the design and plans for your development, you’ll have peace of mind that your finished building will be safe for the people working or living within it, and will pass all the necessary regulations.
What fire protection solutions are available?
Because new builds have to pass such stringent regulations, there are many different solutions available, ensuring all developments can be made fire-safe. A thorough fire risk consultancy service will ensure that all the correct measures are put in place to create a building that’s fire-safe and will pass building regulations.
These could include:
- fire curtains – inhibiting the spread of flames, heat and smoke through concealed spaces in a building, such as roof voids
- firestopping – ensuring that any mechanical or electrical services that breach compartments of a building don’t cause the integrity of these compartments to fail
- intumescent paints – which transforms from a decorative to a protective coating in high temperatures
- dampers – preventing fire from spreading through heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts
- fire doors – reducing spread of fire through a building and allowing occupants to escape safely
- partitions and suspended ceilings – offering protection from all around in the case of fire.
Find out more
To find out more about how a specialist fire protection service can help prevent your new-build from suffering costly, embarrassing and potentially dangerous consequences, contact us at Pro.Tek Interiors today.