Global coalition launch standard on fire safety

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MORE than three years after London’s Grenfell Tower cladding fire tragedy, the World Bank and United Nations-backed International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) coalition have launched a consistent approach to the safety and management of buildings, with the aim of saving more lives by reducing risk and preventing devastating fires.

The global coalition of over 80 organisations this week launched the International Fire Safety Standard – Common Principles (IFSS-CP) following extensive work to bring public confidence around the regulation and control of fire safety measures.

The IFSS is an industry-led global response to address differing or, in some cases, non-existent requirements in countries across the world to fire safety. Contrasting approaches have resulted in significant variations in the design, approval, construction methods and operation of buildings, impacting fire risk.

IFSS Coalition chair Gary Strong said the coalition has worked hard to produce this globally applicable way to bring consistency in fire safety to buildings new and old, and reduce the risk to lives.

“The new standard is unprecedented, being the first agreement on fire safety principles on this international scale, with its development supported by the United Nations in line with its own sustainable development goals.

“It is the outcome of two years of work and worldwide expertise on fire safety from over 80 coalition organisations and will bring reassurance that the construction and management of buildings upholds appropriate fire safety standards,” Strong said.

Despite COVID-19, the use of combustible cladding remains a significant issue globally. As recently as May this year, fire engulfed the 48-storey Abbco tower in Sharjah, near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai has seen a spate of building fires in recent years, including twice at the 79-storey Torch tower – first in 2015 and again in 2017, and the Zen tower in Dubai Marina in May 2018.

APIV chair and IFSS Coalition member Robert Hecek said new building materials and systems are regularly introduced in the marketplace and need assessment relative to their fire performance.

“The relationships between fire and mankind transcend international borders and disciplinary boundaries. The science of fire knows no geographical or political boundaries. Growth in global population drives towards greater urbanisation and more people are living in high density, high rise developments.

“New building materials and systems are regularly introduced in the marketplace and are in need of assessment relative to their fire performance. We now have combustible insulation products with higher thermal properties all over the globe. We have seen numerous fires that have taken many lives and will continue to grow in number globally as there are thousands of buildings that do not comply and endanger thousands of lives every day,” he added.

“The Grenfell Tower disaster in London was the catalyst for this movement and we are looking at changing the future with our efforts and IFSS-CP.

“Much is known about the effects of fire as well as what needs to be done to protect people, buildings and the environment from the destructive effects of fire. However, all this knowledge is not shared effectively. A connected and consistent approach will show considerable benefits.

“With a common understanding and a globally accepted standard we hope to build trust and confidence of the public and also the quality of life in the future. As we have been overwhelmed by the global effect of the COVID-19 pandemic we must not lose focus of this huge global issue that requires eradication on a different scale.” Hecek said.

The standard delivers a clear performance-based framework and common principles that applies to all stages of a building’s life cycle from design, construction, in use, to change and eventual demolition, which can be defined as:

  • Prevention – Safeguarding against the outbreak of fire and/or limiting its effects.
  • Detection and Communication – Investigating and discovering of fire followed by informing occupants and the fire service.
  • Occupant Protection – Facilitating occupant avoidance of and escape from the effects of fire.
  • Containment – Limiting of fire and all its consequences to as small an area as possible.
  • Extinguishment – Suppressing of fire and protecting of the surrounding environment.

The launch of IFSS-CP comes almost six years after the Lacrosse and over a year after the Neo 200 fire in Melbourne. Since then the Victorian government has committed a $600 million to fix buildings with flammable or combustible cladding, making Victoria the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce a rectification scheme and only the second globally after the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile the UK government will spend £1.6 billion fixing cladding on high-rise buildings following the Grenfell Tower fire which killed 223 people and injured over 70.

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