Building standards - (fire safety) external wall systems: consultation analysis

An analysis of the responses to the public consultation on a review of building standards relating to the fire safety of external wall systems to help ensure the safety of people in and around Scotland’s buildings.

6. Part 5 - Impact Assessment

6.1 Introduction

6.1.1 The consultation includes two questions on the impact of the proposals on different groups in society. The first considers the impact on equality groups and the second considers the business and regulatory impact assessment.

6.2 Equality Impact Assessment

6.2.1 Part 5 of the consultation asked for comments on the impact of the proposals on particular groups of people in respect of their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, being pregnant or on maternity leave and children's rights and wellbeing.

6.2.2 Table 8 below shows whether respondents agreed that any of the proposals in the consultation could impact or have implications on equality groups. The majority of responses (67%) did not consider that the proposals would have an impact on equality groups. A small proportion of respondents (9%) felt there would be an impact on equality groups and 24% of respondents were unsure.

6.2.3 The majority of respondents in all groups except trade associations did not think there would be an impact on equality groups. Responses from trade associations were more evenly split across all possible answers.

Table 8: Are there any proposals in this consultation which you consider to impact or have implications on equality groups?
Yes No Unsure Not Answered Total
Construction Industry - 4 1 1 6
Consultancy 1 4 2 - 7
Individuals 1 18 3 - 77
Local Authorities - 8 - - 8
Manufacturers - 4 2 1 7
Other 1 5 3 - 9
Research Estab./Fire Test House 1 - - 1 2
Trade Association 2 4 6 3 15
Total 6 47 17 6 76
% respondents answering question 9 67 24 100

6.2.4 There were 22 comments made in response to this question. Responses are considered separately for the different answers to the question.

Yes - There Could be an Impact on Equality Groups

6.2.5 In terms of the equality groups identified as being affected by the consultation proposals, disabled/those with mobility issues and more vulnerable residents of high-rise buildings were identified. The points included:

  • Disabled/limited mobility: Improved regulations will offer the opportunity of greater safety of those within the building which will support escape strategies. However, it was suggested that unless this Mandatory Standard 2.7 is defined in terms of time for life safety, there will be no clear relationship between the requirement to slow external fire spread and the longer time required for evacuation of those who require assistance. The standard should take a view of the likely mobility of occupants.
  • Vulnerable residents: one respondent raised the issue of financial hardship in relation to the cost of replacing cladding following Grenfell and the problems some residents were having e.g. cladding not replaced, increased fuel costs etc. and suggested that further restrictions will exacerbate these problems. It was suggested that the proposed changes will affect the refurbishment market and potentially some of the most vulnerable residents living in high-rise buildings.

6.2.6 A respondent also identified that there would be costs attached to any measures which could impact on other aspects of performance of the products and hence, building performance. This would occur at a time of on-going material shortages and increased costs being passed on through the supply chain.

Unsure – There Could be an Impact on Equality Groups

6.2.7 Several comments were made by those respondents who had selected "unsure" as their response to the quantitative component of the question. Some respondents identified the potential for the proposals to increase building costs which could eventually be passed onto the occupiers of the buildings. This could impact on the affordability of housing for some groups within society. The following quotes highlight the flavour of the comments:

"It is likely that a ban on MCM cladding will have a greater impact on blocks of flats which are often occupied by lower income families, couples or individuals"

"…consideration should be given to whether any of the potential changes following this consultation could impact on means of escape provisions for those with mobility impairment or the safety of fire and rescue service personnel."

6.3 Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

6.3.1 Part 5 of the consultation also asked if the proposals in the consultation would lead to increased costs and/or impact on resources for respondents or their business.

6.3.2 Table 9 below shows that views were broadly split on whether the proposals would have a financial, regulatory or resource implication for either themselves or their business. There were 31 respondents answering 'yes' (45%) and 28 answering 'no' (41%) with ten respondents 'unsure'.

6.3.3 Trade associations and manufacturers were the only respondent groups where there was a clear majority of respondents believing the proposals would have a financial, regulatory or resource implication for them. The majority of local authority respondents did not believe there would be any financial, regulatory or resources implication from the proposals with the other stakeholder groups having a broad range of views.

Table 9: Do you think that any of the proposals in this consultation have any financial, regulatory or resource implications for you and/or your business (if applicable)?
Yes No Unsure Not Answered Total
Construction Industry 2 1 2 1 6
Consultancy 3 4 - - 7
Individuals 9 10 2 1 22
Local Authorities 2 6 - - 8
Manufacturers 4 1 1 1 7
Other 2 3 4 - 9
Research Estab./Fire Test House - - - 2 2
Trade Association 9 3 1 2 15
Total 31 28 10 7 76
% respondents answering question 45 41 14 100

6.3.4 There were 36 comments made in response to this question. Responses are considered separately for the three different answers to the question.

Yes - There Could be a Financial, Regulatory or Resource Impact

Increased Costs

6.3.5 Many respondents across all stakeholder groups (excluding research establishments/fire test houses) felt that the proposals in the consultation could lead to increased costs. The increased costs could arise through a number of channels including:

  • Greater costs at the design stage due to greater attention to specification and detailing.
  • Increased product costs and potential issues with availability.
  • Additional costs associated with Fire Engineers for certain cladding situations.
  • Verifiers may require additional resources to evaluate proposed FSE approaches.
  • Costs associated with additional training and further education.

Prescriptive Ban

6.3.6 Several respondents (primarily trade associations) raised concerns about Option 3 of Part 3 which referred to a regulatory ban. While noting there could be a negative financial impact on their members, respondents felt a ban would also limit choice of construction products for architects/designers which could lead to increased costs and possibly reduce building performance.

6.3.7 It was suggested that buildings have to perform in a variety of ways (e.g. fire performance, energy efficiency, ventilation and air quality, sound proofing etc) and a regulatory ban on some products could result in compromising one standard for the sake of another. The net zero carbon targets may be adversely impacted as designers would not have full access to the materials best suited to meet this target.

6.3.8 One respondent suggested that a regulatory ban could be seen as being contrary to the ethos of building standards which are considered to be performance based standards rather than prescriptive standards.

Other Comments

6.3.9 A couple of other points were made including:

  • A concern that there will not be sufficient experienced fire engineers to meet demand, which would have implications for costs and time delays to projects.
  • Producers of non-combustible products could face increased competition as the ban on combustible façade materials in England in 2018 led to new market entrants.

Unsure - There Could be a Financial, Regulatory or Resource Impact

6.3.10 A couple of points raised by "unsure" respondents were covered by some of the respondents who answered "yes". In particular, the potential impact on the construction industry and, hence on the supply of new housing, of a regulatory ban regarding the large-scale fire test BS 8418. Removal of this could affect the ability of the industry and supply chain to innovate, especially with regard to developing and utilising new lower carbon products which are required to deliver the net zero targets.

6.3.11 There was also a concern that if large scale testing was not allowed to prove a products worth, there could be adverse financial effects on certain manufacturers (e.g. wood based panels) and a removal of some carbon negative products.

6.3.12 The quotes below highlight the range of other comments made:

"Safety should not be assessed by financial implications. The increased costs will assist in sustainability and longer life of the building and safety measures in the event of a fire will help to save lives and reduce pollution for the actual fire event."

"They will however, have a negative impact financially on many building owners particularly as anecdotally we have been informed of buildings no longer being able to get insurance cover"

"Any changes to policy should be fully funded to ensure they can be embedded…"



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