Beyond Clarification: The solution to concerns over fire safety
standards of modular buildings, lies in Agrément Certification.

In a recent article published by the Safety & Health Practitioner (SHP), Editor James Moore takes a look at the accounts that unfolded following a recent tragedy in Shetland where a fire destroyed the Moorfield Hotel in 2020, highlighting concerns over fire safety standards of modular buildings and seeking clarification regarding building design.

Moore writes, ‘Following a Freedom of Information request to the fire services after a fire at the Moorfield Hotel last year, the BBC has reported that experts believe further investigation into the risks of modular buildings is required.’ While the report highlights a number of concerns in regards to modular construction, often termed MMC (Modern Methods of Construction), we also believe that there is more to underlying fire safety standards of modular buildings than simply seeking clarification.

The BBA, through its Product Certification and Testing services, provides the necessary guidance on initial product selection and fitness for installation. Together with services that we offer around Inspection and Auditing that applies required oversight in manufacturing quality control and installation quality and conformity, we enable a more holistic view on quality when it comes to building design and the selection of products, systems and materials used therein, to determine fitness for purpose.

Let’s look at some of the points raised in the article, in further detail:

• ‘Where components are fixed together, there may be hidden voids through which smoke and hot gasses can travel through a building.’

It is important to consider any building material in the context of its intended use and this is a key element of BBA Certification. Very few materials are used in isolation and it is essential that any performance data are assessed taking into account their association with other components and materials, and the overall design solution.

Any BBA Certificate is accompanied by regular factory inspections, which assure that the specification of the manufactured product remains unchanged and so that the performance described in the BBA Certificate will be achieved by the product delivered to site.

‘Some methods are so new and innovative that contractors may have little or no experience of the materials, systems and techniques required’

The safe and appropriate use of innovative materials is essential if the UK construction industry is to meet the challenges facing it.

The BBA was set up in 1966 to address precisely this issue: how can specifiers, designers and users have confidence in the performance of new and innovative building materials? Over the past 55 years, the BBA has built an unsurpassed reputation for the assessment and Certification of construction products, providing the necessary assurance that the performance claims made by manufacturers can be relied on.

Beyond the product Certification, the BBA has a long established series of approved installer and competent person schemes, enabling for many product sectors a one stop shop for the assurance of the complete construction cycle.

The recent Agrément Consultation process has demonstrated that the BBA is not prepared to rest on its laurels, but rather seeks to further improve on its existing products and services and it determined to remain at the forefront of UK construction Certification.

As the need for new assurance emerges, so the BBA will be in an ideal position to tailor its service to meet the demands.

• ‘Some methods of construction could be a fire risk if they contain hidden combustible insulation materials or poor firestopping procedures’

All BBA assessment take into account not only the certified products, but the environment in which they are installed. The fitness for purpose assessment and Certification includes reference to the appropriate best practice and regulatory requirements to inform design and installation.

BBA inspections are carried out by trained industry specialists to ensure that all relevant requirements are met.

• “A key element when thinking about MMC construction is the approach to the building materials and how they interact with each other,”

BBA assessments take full account of the environment in which products are installed and the materials with which they are likely to be in contact. These factors are fully taken into account in the performance characteristics quoted in Certificates.

If you’d like to understand more about the BBA, and how we enable and support product innovation in the market, please get in touch.

Contact us.