1 Executive Summary
1.1 The objective of this project was to conduct research and provide an independent opinion on the need, appropriateness, potential structure and potential operations of a central hub for assisting in the verification of complex fire engineered designs.
1.2 In conducting the research, the structure of verification (review / approval) approaches used in various countries for fire engineered designs, in particular performance-based designs and / or designs for complex or high-risk buildings, were investigated and assessed.
1.3 In addition, a broad cross-section of stakeholder groups in Scotland were consulted, including representatives from academia (fire engineering), architecture, architectural technology, Scottish Government Building Standards Division, the development community, the fire engineering community, the insurance industry, Local Authority Verifiers via Local Authority Building Standard Scotland (LABSS) and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (Fire Engineering Group).
1.4 It is the opinion of the author that the verification system in Scotland largely operates well, and that the fundamental issue is lack of resources. A central hub for review is recommended as the means to provide needed resources in the short term.
1.5 Considering the various options explored as part of this research, and considering the feedback from stakeholders on the concept of a central ‘hub’ for review of fire engineered designs, it is the opinion of the author that for Scotland, a system that contains aspects of maintaining the current Scottish Government appointed verification authority, Local Authority Verifiers (LAV), would seem to fit best the verification needs and resource constraints within Scotland.
1.6 It is the opinion of the author that the most feasible construct for such a hub would be an entity managed by LABSS, with a fulltime ‘gatekeeper’ (coordinator) to make initial decisions on whether a design should be reviewed by the hub, and supported by a panel of four additional persons, with access to a range of subject matter experts.
1.7 It is recommended that the Scottish Government consult with stakeholders on the formation of a hub as outlined in this report.
1.8 It is recommended that the Scottish Government initiate an effort to develop a system of ‘risk categories’ for buildings in Scotland, so as to provide consistency in understanding and application amongst all stakeholders, including the public. Ultimately, any approach to defining ‘high risk’ buildings in Scotland should begin with a discussion on defining and characterizing risk, and then moving on to categorizing or quantifying risk, as befits the selected model. Consideration of existing classification(s) of risk in the Scottish system would be a likely basis of such an effort (e.g., looking to ‘places of special risk’ and buildings that ‘pose a particular risk’ as discussed in the Technical Handbooks). See also previous reports which discuss risk (Meacham, 2016; 2017; 2018).
1.9 It is recommended that the Scottish Government initiate a project to develop guidelines on defining, recognizing and understanding complexity in buildings as related to fire engineering designs. Complexity in the built environment has many facets, and it is difficult to define it simply. It is deemed better to describe what makes the system complex, provide questions to explore relative to complexity, and to train actors to understand and address complexity as part of design and reporting.
1.10 It is recommended that as part of the hub, and as part of addressing ‘high-risk’ and ‘complex’ buildings, and as part of addressing the current situation with respect to qualifications and competency across the sector, that the Scottish Government consider development of a ‘fire engineering verification method’ to assist engineers and verifiers with ‘simple’ deviations from the Technical Handbooks (see Meacham 2017 and Annex F of this report).