GAI: Fire door test changes could cause “immense damage”

Simon Forrester, chief executive of the Architectural Ironmongers

Proposed changes to fire door testing could cause “immense damage”, and may not make the products any safer, according to the leader of the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI). The comment is part of a longer response supplied by the GAI, which has contributed to a consultation process.

Proposals from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would remove the national classification system for construction products – BS 476 – and instead require classification to the British Standard version of the European Standard EN 13501, with testing to EN 1634 test standards becoming the new norm, according to the GAI’s representative. In response to a consultation about this, the GAI has argued that there is no evidence to suggest that this change will make fire doors any safer.

“We believe that in its current form, this proposal will cause immense damage to the UK’s world-class architectural ironmongery sector, and problems throughout the architectural and construction sectors, while failing to deliver any meaningful benefits,” said Simon Forrester, the GAI’s chief executive. “BS 476 – or more specifically, part 22 of that standard – has successfully delivered robust safety assurances for timber fire door users for many years and is still widely recognised as fit for purpose. Indeed, post-Grenfell, testing volumes have increased even further in response to the demand for more primary test evidence.

“Among our members are companies that have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on this testing this year, with similar amounts budgeted for next year and beyond. One of our members has cited that its business alone has more than 600 BS 476 part 22 tests which will become redundant if the proposed changes go ahead.

“With the cost of each typical fire test up to £11,000, current waiting times at six months or more for each test, and then another six months for the report, retesting would cause huge disruption throughout the hardware and construction sectors, and cost the industry many millions of pounds – a cost which would have to be passed on to developers and ultimately the consumer.” The GAI’s consultation response concluded: “We do not believe that there is any evidence to suggest that moving to classification in EN 13501 will make fire doors any safer or deliver any meaningful life safety benefits … We urge the government to retain the acceptance of classification according to BS 476 22 for timber doors in order to help retain a significant body of test data, to safeguard product availability for UK customers and to protect vital overseas markets which have become particularly important for many UK door hardware manufacturers and suppliers, and are a great British export success story.”

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