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Sep 14

Written by: Mila News
Thursday, September 14, 2017 

The construction sector is only just starting to come to terms with the scale of the Grenfell disaster, and there will undoubtedly be lessons to be learnt for many years to come. A public inquiry has obviously been set up to look into the causes and make recommendations designed to make sure that such a tragedy can never happen again, but Grenfell is even now shining a spotlight on key areas relating to product testing and assessment, and we are already seeing changes filtering through.

We’ve all heard suggestions that the external cladding fitted at Grenfell was not actually fire tested but just assessed to be OK and, even if that turns out not to be the case, it has made many involved in the industry much more nervous about relying only on assessment reports at any stage in the accreditation process.

Secured By Design (SBD) has been amongst the first to act and has declared that it is now requiring independent third party certification of both the fire performance and security performance of any product described on its website as a Fire Door. This takes away the option for a manufacturer to declare fire performance against a Global Fire Assessment or a one off Fire Test Report, and actually brings Approved Document B (fire) in line with PAS24, for which SBD has required third party certification since 2005.

As I see it, this could spell the end of global assessments in our industry altogether, and mean that anyone declaring accreditation against a particular standard will have no option other than to submit the relevant product for independent testing and have third party certification in place to show that the product can continually perform to that standard.

Personally, that’s something I would support 100%. I routinely see some of Mila’s competitors in the hardware sector having ‘global assessments’ done on their products, which essentially means that they have only been physically tested on one PVC-U profile and then merely assessed to the fact that they will perform in the same way on any other profile. I’ve seen companies declaring that their hardware is accredited on Veka profile for instance, when in fact it has only been tested on Rehau. The fact that the person doing the assessment isn’t necessarily a doors and windows expert only compounds the problem.

In a post Grenfell environment where assessments are coming under much closer scrutiny, that just doesn’t seem right to me. Building Inspectors will become more reluctant to sign off projects where they can’t see clear evidence that the product they are inspecting is exactly the same as the product tested. In the future, I think they are much more likely to demand full reports that include the supplier’s name and third party accreditation including audit testing, rather than to accept a global assessment; and that’s something everyone in the industry should be preparing for.

The same applies to cascading of data of course. Although I personally disagree with it, it is perfectly legitimate for suppliers to cascade test data from their own test reports down to their customers. There is still far too much room for error though, unless guarantees are brought into the process which ensure that the window or door matches the product which was originally tested in every detail – right down to the size and specification of the screws.

Largely because of my own personal opposition to global assessments, Mila has been very much ahead of the curve here. We have an extensive library of test data for our products on a whole raft of different profile systems, and of course we have our own Test Centre on site where customers can submit products for indicative testing to make sure that any investment they make in formal testing will be worthwhile.

If fabricators want any more advice on the changes which I think are coming, contact me directly via: scooke@mila.co.uk or on Twitter @StraffordCooke

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