GENERAL PROPERTY

More global organisations sign up to fire safety coalition

London's Grenfell tower
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MORE than 80 organisations from over 60 countries around the world have joined the United Nation’s backed International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition.

The organisations are collaborating to develop landmark industry standards and a Decade of Fire Safety 2020-2030 to address fire safety in buildings, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in London.

As the property market becomes increasingly international with investments flowing across national borders, the sector still lacks a globally consistent set of high level principles that will inform the design, construction, and management of buildings to address the risks associated with fire safety.

Differences in materials testing and certification, national building regulations or codes, education & training, and standards on how to manage and fight fires in buildings in use, particularly higher risk buildings, means there is confusion, uncertainty and risk to the public.

Gary Strong, the RICS Global Building Standards director cites the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 as a tragic example which demonstrates the need for a coherent global collaborative approach to fire safety.

“The Grenfell Tower fire focused the world’s attention on how many buildings are threatened with the prospect of failing fire safety standards. All over the world we see the need for more high-rise structures – residential, commercial and mixed-use buildings, particularly in cities.

“Our concern is not with the height of these buildings but with the risks they pose in the absence of a coherent and harmonised global approach to setting global standards in fire safety. The effort by the IFSS Coalition aims to address this concern and bring together the design, construction and management aspects of ensuring a higher level of fire safety of building assets in the public interest.” Strong said.

Robert Hecek, chair of APIV, is one of the founding members of IFSS and the Australian Property Institute is member of the Coalition working towards the new Global Fire Safety Standard which is on track to be released for public comment in early October.

The IFSS Coalition are also working on a draft plan for a Decade of Fire Safety 2020-2030 which will be launched at the UN in early 2020. It is expected the UN will endorse this and all member countries will be tasked with improving fire safety through the decade. This is seen as essential to ensure member countries apply standards, and are measured for their performance against these standards in the public interest.

Meanwhile Victoria became the first jurisdiction in Australia and second globally after the United Kingdom, to introduce a rectification scheme. The Andrews government pledged a $600 million package to fix buildings with high risk cladding.

But the $600 million might to be enough, experts estimate the bill could be as high as $1.6 billion based on 629 known buildings in the state.

Hecek warns as many as 1,200 buildings across Victoria could be affected, which could cost between $3 – $4 billion.

And earlier this month the Victorian government announced plans to expand its apartment design standards to include building exteriors to ensure better quality materials are used externally.

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