Publication - Minutes

Scottish Advice Note Technical Working Group minutes: 03 June 2020

Published: 10 Aug 2020
Date of meeting: 3 Jul 2020

Minutes from the third meeting of the Technical Working Group to develop a Scottish Advice Note determining the fire risk posed by external wall systems in existing multi-storey residential buildings.

Published:
10 Aug 2020
Scottish Advice Note Technical Working Group minutes: 03 June 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees                                               

  • Dr Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards, SG (Chair)
  • Luke Bisby, University of Edinburgh
  • Craig Ross, RICS
  • Jim McGonigal, IFEHeading 2
  • Colin Todd, CS Todd & Associates
  • Alan McAulay, LABSS
  • Chris Getty, SFRS
  • Charles-Elie Romeyer, MHCLG
  • Debbie Smith, BRE
  • Simon Routh-Jones, HM Fire Inspectorate
  • Bill Connolly, NHS
  • Colin Hird, Building Standards, SG
  • Gavin Gray, Fire and Rescue Unit, SG
  • Benny Rooney, Building Standards, SG
  • Karen Coyne, Better Homes, SG

Apologies

  • Angus Law, University of Edinburgh
  • Shona Harper, Building Standards, SG
  • Brian McKenzie

Items and actions

1. Welcome, introductions and meeting protocol

The chair welcomed members of the Technical Working Group and explained the meeting protocol.  The group comprised representation from academia, professional institutions, local authority building standards, fire testing, research and consultancy, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, National Health Service, UK and Scottish Government (SG) officials. Chair requested permission to publish notes of each of the meetings of the panel on the Building and Fire Safety Ministerial Working Group website. No objections were made.

2. Note of second meeting 13 May 2020

The chair provided a summary of discussions from the previous meeting held on the 13 MAY 2020 and invited members to make any comments. One comment was made relating to Item 4 and an amended meeting note will be circulated to members. [Post meeting note: A finalised agreed note of meeting 2 was circulated to members on 8 June 2020].

3. Discussion paper – Scope & Competence

Members of the working group were provided with a discussion paper on the scope of the advice note and the required competence of those undertaking an evaluation of an External Wall System. The key points were:

  • Members felt that it was clear from discussions to date that residential buildings are within scope of the Consolidated Advice Note produced by the UK Government’s Independent Expert Panel and published by MHCLG
  • Further clarification has been sought from the Chair of the UK Government’s Independent Expert Panel as to whether it was intended to apply this advice to all residential buildings within the scope as set out in the consolidated advice note
  • Anecdotal evidence suggesting that external wall systems, including cladding did not feature in many fire risk assessments prior to the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017
  • Fire Industry Association published guidance on fire risk assessment and external cladding systems was highlighted to members
  • Evacuation strategy, height of the building and their importance were all key to the fire risk assessment
  • Provision of cavity barriers were stressed as key components of the external wall system

Members were also posed four questions for discussion.

Question 1: Do members agree or disagree that all residential buildings as set out in the Scottish Advice Note should fall within the scope of the advice?

Members felt that the building types as set out in the Scottish Advice Note should fall within the scope of the advice.  

Question 2:  Do members agree or disagree that fire risk assessors should have a basic understanding of the fire performance of cladding materials and system components when assessing risk in all residential buildings regardless of height or fire strategy?

Members discussed what was meant by a “basic understanding” and what would be the minimum a fire risk assessor should understand in relation the fire performance of cladding materials and system components when assessing risk. The majority of returns indicated they should have a basic knowledge and understanding of the construction of cladding systems and know when the limitations of their knowledge have been met.

Question 3: Do members agree or disagree that competent specialists should be employed where the fire strategy is based on the principle of delayed evacuation i.e. stay put, progressive horizontal or phased evacuation regardless of height?

Members discussed the competency of fire risk assessors and specialists in undertaking an assessment of risk within differing building types.

Question 4 : Do members agree or disagree that competent specialists should be employed where the fire risk assessor has doubt about the external wall system regardless of evacuation strategy or building height? 

Members discussed the need for those undertaking any form of assessment of risk of a building to be competent in the task and not undertake any task for which they are not suitably qualified with members indicating that professionals should not conduct work outside their area of competence.

4. Scottish Advice Note (Draft 2)

Members were provided with an overview of the draft Scottish Advice Note. General comments and discussion included:

  • That the guidance will be a stand-alone guide for Scotland
  • It was highlighted that the main difference between the Scottish Advice Note and the MHCLG Consolidated Advice Note was the range of fire safety measures covered in each. The Scottish Advice Note is concerned with external wall systems and specified attachments (EWS) whereas the MHCLG Consolidated Advice Note covers not only EWS but also other fire safety measures, including fire doors, smoke control and the structural stability of external wall insulation.  Existing Scottish fire safety guidance is thought to sufficiently cover fire doors and smoke control. [Post meeting note: At the Building and Fire Safety Ministerial Working Group meeting on 11 June, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning requested that linkage between existing guidance on fire doors and smoke control be included in the final advice note to be published later in the year]
  • The guide focuses on residential buildings with a sleeping risk
  • The purpose of the advice note is to provide guidance for building owners / managers to assist in determining the fire risk posed by external wall systems; a term which is defined in the Note
  • It is not concerned with property protection or business continuity which is out-with the scope of the legislation and associated published guidance
  • The Building Standards System in Scotland was outlined to members, including the responsibility of the “relevant person”
  • General agreement that intrusive inspections should require “just cause” before being undertaken
  • Members discussed enforcement powers of the local authority over product substitution, which may only come to light after the completion certificate has been accepted by the verifier
  • Risk assessment benchmarks and their relationship with Building Regulations were discussed
  • The difference between Fire Safety Risk Assessments considering EWS and intrusive, detailed external wall system appraisals were discussed
  • Some members expressed concern over the potential need for Fire Risk Assessments to be supported by a more detailed and intrusive external wall appraisal
  • Some members expressed doubts over the ability of some fire risk assessors to interpret BS 8414 test results
  • Some members expressed concerns regarding a lack of documentation and other evidence to inform assessments of external wall systems
  • Members discussed competence, noting that detailed and intrusive appraisals of external wall systems on existing buildings is a specialised field which should be undertaken by a competent person (and beyond the capabilities of many competent fire risk assessors)
  • Competence standards for fire risk assessors and what they should know about external wall systems were discussed including reference made to guidance issued by the Competency Council on choosing a competent fire risk assessor
  • IFE guidance in relation to the EWS1 form was highlighted
  • Documentation / evidence and responsibilities of owners and managers to hold information. Confidence levels relating to Building Warrant records which may not be 100% accurate.  Suitable “as built” drawings and evidence should be available from building standards records for at least for 25 years
  • Members discussed the various common metal composite material (MCM) panels commonly used for cladding buildings
  • Partial cladding of buildings guidance was discussed by members
  • This part of the session was curtailed due to a lack of time and Members were invited to make any comments and track changes to the Scottish Advice Note (Draft 2) by Wednesday 10 June 2020

5. FIA Guidance

Members were provided with an overview of the Fire Industry Association guidance on the Issue of Cladding and External Wall Construction in Fire Risk Assessments for Multi Occupied Residential Premises.

  • Members were informed that the position of the FIA was that the MHCLG Consolidated Advice Note and the Fire Safety Bill represented the biggest challenge to the Fire Risk Assessment sector
  • It was indicated that of FIA members conducted over 42,000 FRA`s each year but no company are likely to undertake an assessment of the EWS within the FRA due to competence, liability and insurance issues
  • FIA contention indicates that in their view EWS were not part of the Fire Safety Order and that no FRA company looked at EWS with exclusion clauses indicating that EWS were outside the scope of the FRA
  • The FIA document has now been published and passed to MHCLG and the Home Office for consideration
  • Members were informed that MHCLG were now looking at a PAS as a possible way of assisting in dealing with EWS

6.  AOB

  • Chair identified next steps
  • Members were informed of the date of the next Ministerial Working group as being 11 June 2020
  • Progress on Advice Note will be provided at this meeting
  • Permission will be requested at this meeting for a short targeted consultation process carried out over the Summer – Autumn
  • Advice from SG Comms will be sought during the consultation period
  • A final meeting of the Technical Working Group be convened in the Autumn  with a final version of the Scottish Advice Note produced for Ministerial approval later in the year

7.       Date of next meeting – Chair advised that a further meeting would be undertaken after consultation to discuss final draft of the Advice Note. Date to be agreed with members.