Centralized hub for verification of complex fire engineered solutions in Scotland: feasibility study

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.

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14 Annex E: Qualifications, Competency and Verification Level

14.1 Introduction[4]

14.1.1 There has been discussion in Scotland for some years now on issues related to qualifications and competency of engineers and verifiers with respect to fire safety engineered designs, especially for complex buildings and innovative materials, systems and approaches (e.g., see BSD, 2015; Meacham 2016; 2017). 

14.1.2 In considering the regulatory appropriateness of standardised reaction-to-fire tests, as cited in the Technical Handbook – Section 2: Fire (non-domestic and domestic), particularly if a three-level verification approach is adopted, qualifications and competency, as associated with each route, is important.

14.1.3 Development of a qualifications and competency framework is outside of the scope of this project. However, it is suggested that the approach outlined in the 2017 research report, Competency Criteria for Local Authority Verifiers when Checking Fire Engineered Solutions for Compliance with Building Standards (Meacham, 2017), is valid and consistent with the three-level approach discussed in this report. The discussion below focuses on issues associated with the three-level approach with respect to Standards 2.4 – 2.7. 

14.2 LEVEL 1 – Technical Handbook Compliance (Simple and Conservative) 

14.2.1 As defined in Meacham (2017), if a design is developed in compliance with all aspects of Section 2: Fire of the Technical Handbooks (Level 1 Analysis), no fire engineering qualifications beyond what is currently expected of verifiers is needed.

14.2.2 With respect to Standards 2.4 – 2.7, specifically if recommendations such as modifying the Technical Handbook – Section 2: Fire, to be ‘simple and conservative,’ meaning use non-combustible materials (to a large extent, with few exceptions) in cavities, cavity barriers, internal linings, and external (insulated) wall / cladding systems, the above level of qualifications is appropriate. Since the solutions are conservative, and no fire engineering analysis is involved, no fire engineering qualification is particularly needed as part of the verification process. (See Meacham, 2017, for details).

14.3 Level 2: Deviations or Alternatives (Verification Methods / Tests 

14.3.1 If a design involves ‘minor’ deviations from Section 2: Fire of the Technical Handbooks, or in the case that Scotland moves to develop a ‘prescribed performance’ approach for verification of fire engineered designs, much like the C/VM2 framework in New Zealand, then it is suggested that a IEng MIFireE qualification and level of expertise is likely appropriate, depending on how the verification method is structured (see Meacham, 2017 for details). 

14.3.2 This level of qualification is suggested, since with either a single variable type design or multiple variable type design (see 6.3.3), some knowledge of fire engineering principles will be helpful in guiding adequately informed decisions.

14.3.3 This is particularly desirable if Scotland chooses to develop a Verification Method for fire designs, such as New Zealand’s C/VM2 (MBIE, 2017) or the proposed Australian Fire Safety Verification Method (ABCB, 2018; 2018a), especially if the approach would specify input parameters, including those to be used in modelling, and would assume some knowledge of proper use of the models. Such a Verification Method would be considered a Level 2 Analysis.    

14.3.4 Specific to Standards 2.4 – 2.7, the flexibility that would be permitted as part of deviations based on limited engineering analysis (through application of a Verification Method or other) or use of ‘alternative’ standardised reaction-to-fire test methods is such that some knowledge of fire physics and chemistry would be helpful (for example, in determining suitability of ‘alternative’ standardised reaction-to-fire test methods to a particular building application).   

14.4 Level 3: Analyses (Fire Safety Engineering) 

14.4.1 Owing to the complexity and potential risk associated with Level 3 fire engineering analyses and designs, it should be that the qualifications and expertise required for anyone undertaking a Level 3 fire engineered design, or verifying such a design – whether employed as a local authority verifier or as an independent third party reviewer working on behalf of the verifier – should meet the requirements of CEng, MIFireE (see Meacham, 2017, for more discussion). This is fundamental, since any engineering solution can make use of any engineering tool or method, and the verifier / verifying body needs to be in a position to competently verify appropriate application of the tools and methods in the development of the engineered solution.  

14.4.2 An example of a fire engineered design relative to Standards 2.4 – 2.7 might be an approach which aims to combine outcomes from ‘screening’ tests, such as ISO 5660 (Cone Calorimeter Test Method), ISO 9705 (Room Corner Test Method), ISO 13823 (Single Burning Item Test Method), or ISO 13782 Part 1, and combined with demonstrably robust fire development and flame spread models, to demonstrate acceptable fire performance of an external insulated wall system. Such approaches can be complex and require care. Various examples of related analysis are available in the literature (e.g., see Janssens et al., 2003; Meunders et al., 2012; Elini et al., 2013; van Hees, 2016).

14.4.3 Alternatively, or additionally, the establishment of some type of ‘central’ peer-review panel or committee could be extremely beneficial for such designs. As outlined by Meacham (2017), the intent would be to have a panel which reflects the sector – not just fire engineers, but verifiers, the regulator, fire service, insurance and potentially industry and public representation – who are outside of the specific design of a complex building or application of advanced fire safety engineering approach, who can competently and independently verify compliance of the fire engineered solution with the intent of the Building Standards. 

14.4.4 Such a body can be helpful because a specific design, by definition, is addressing issues or buildings deemed outside of the Section 2: Fire of the Technical Handbooks, or of a C/VM2 type verification method, and therefore must consider the broader scope of the Building Standards and compliance with it. By including the verifier (LAV), regulator (BSD) and fire service (SFRS), it should eliminate the need for additional review. By including insurance, it should reduce concerns from that sector as well. There is a separate research project underway to explore this in more detail.


ABCB (2018). NCC 2019 – Fire Safety Verification Method, draft for public consultation, ABCB, Canberra, ACT, Australia (available for download at http://www.abcb.gov.au/Resources/Publications/NCC-2019-Public-Comment-Draft/Fire-Safety-Verification-Method-proposed-for-NCC-2019, last accessed 11 March 2018).

ABCB (2018a). NCC 2019 – Fire Safety Verification Method, Calibration Study Summary, ABCB, Canberra, ACT, Australia (available for download at http://www.abcb.gov.au/Resources/Publications/NCC-2019-Public-Comment-Draft/Fire-safety-Verification-Method-calibration-study-summary, last accessed 11 March 2018).

Eleni K. Asimakopoulou, Dionysios I. Kolaitis and Maria A. Founti (2013). “Comparative assessment of CFD Tools and the Eurocode Methodology in describing Externally Venting Flames,” 1st International Seminar for Fire Safety of Façades, Paris (France), published in MATEC Web of Conferences, 9 (2013) 03003 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/matecconf/20130903003. 

Janssens, ML., Kimble, J., Murphy, D. (2003). “Computer Tools to Determine Material Properties for Fire Growth Modelling from Cone Calorimeter Data,” Proceedings of Fire and Materials 2003 Conference, San Francisco, USA, pp. 377-387. Lawson, R. (2009). A History of Fire Testing, NIST Technical Note 1628, NIST, Gaithersburg, MD, USA, pp41.

MBIE (2017). C/VM2 Verification Method: Framework for Fire Safety Design, MBIE, Wellington, NZ (available for download at https://www.building.govt.nz/building-code-compliance/c-protection-from-fire/c-clauses-c1-c6/#jumpto-acceptable-solutions-and-verification-methods, last accessed on 11 March 2018). 

Meunders, A., Trettin, C., Wittbecker, F. (2012). “The capability of FDS to model flames and plumes emerging from compartment openings”, Proceedings of the 2012 International Congress of Fire Computer Modelling, 457–470, Santander, Spain.

Van Hees, P. (2016). “The Urgent Need for System Thinking in Fire Safety – The Only Way Forward for Testing, Engineering and Education,” 14th Interflam Conference, Interscience Communications Ltd, London, 2016.


Email: sarah.waugh@gov.scot

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