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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2 Introduction

2.1 Introduction

2.1.1 The outcome from the project Research to Support the Improvement of the Design Verification of Fire Engineered Solutions as Part of the Scottish Building Regulatory System (Meacham, 2016) identified several shortcomings and opportunities related to the development and to the verification of fire engineered solutions. A key finding was that the lack of qualified fire engineers, across key stakeholder groups, was a limiting factor.

2.1.2 As a means to help address this limiting factor, it was suggested that consideration be given to the establishment of a ‘central’ resource for peer review, or at least guidance on how to select peer reviewers (including qualifications, experience, conflict of interest issues, etc.).

2.1.3 A subsequent research project, Competency Criteria for Local Authority Verifiers (LAVs) when Checking Fire Engineered Solutions for Compliance with Building Standards (Meacham, 2017), likewise recommended the establishment of some type of ‘central’ peer-review panel or committee. This is because a specific fire engineered design, by definition, is addressing issues or buildings deemed outside the scope of Section 2: Fire of the Technical Handbooks and requires persons competent in fire engineering designs to verify, as well as undertake, such designs.

2.2 Background

2.2.1 In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, Building Standards Division (BSD) has embarked on a review of certain aspects of the Building Standards (Fire Safety) in Scotland. As part of this work, a Scottish Review Panel has been established with the remit to consider the Building Standards for fire and Section 2: Fire of the Technical Handbooks, in light of any evidence emerging from the Grenfell Tower fire. BSD have also formed an international sub-group to review the work of the Scottish Review Panel and to provide critical challenge as well as feedback to the Review. 

2.2.2 To date there have been two meetings of the Scottish Review Panel. One of the consensus outcomes from the first meeting was that the process for the verification of fire engineering solutions, which do not follow the Technical Handbooks, needs to be reviewed to ensure they are sufficiently robust. As part of the second meeting, the value of a centralized fire engineering “hub” or “clearing house” to assist in verification was discussed. 

2.2.3 It was suggested that members for this centralized fire engineering “hub” or “clearing house” could be drawn from statutory bodies or alternatively be privately contracted fire engineers. The role of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) in such verification was discussed. It was acknowledged that with their consultation role there might be the possibility of a perceived conflict of interest. This would need to be addressed.

2.2.4 Previous research and current discussions within the Review Panel on Building Standards (Fire Safety) in Scotland have identified the need to explore the potential benefits, and potential structure and operation of, a ‘centralized’ review hub for complex fire engineered designs. 

2.3 Project Objectives

2.3.1 The objective of this project is 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.

2.3.2 As part of this effort, input is sought from a wide range of stakeholder groups on the following topics: 

  • The role of a central review hub in relation to responsibilities and authority of LAVs, SFRS and BSD with respect to fire engineered designs
  • The form (or forms) of the hub that may be suitable for Scotland, given the regulatory system and the resources and expertise within the system
  • The number and representative make-up (e.g., practicing fire engineer, LAVs, SFRS fire engineer, academic, etc.) of persons that might be appropriate for serving in a review capacity as part of the hub
  • The qualifications and experience of the persons who might serve as part of review panels for the hub
  • The limits and conditions of service as part of the hub, including potential conflicts of interest (private and governmental)
  • The triggers for determining when a project could or should be sent to the hub for verification (e.g., complex and ‘high-risk’ buildings, significant variations from Section 2: Fire, Technical Handbooks, etc.), what documentation would be required, from whom, and within what time constraints
  • The time limits around the activities of the hub in relation to a specific project (i.e., timelines for undertaking review and reporting back), and
  • How such a hub might be funded (i.e., different mechanisms) 

2.3.3 Research into how other jurisdictions is conducted as well.  

2.4 Key Stakeholder Groups

2.4.1 To obtain a robust perspective from the community, a number of key stakeholder groups have been consulted, including:

  • Academia (fire engineering)
  • Architects and Architectural Technologists
  • Building Standards Division 
  • Developers 
  • Insurance industry
  • Fire engineers (via IFE Scotland Branch and others)
  • Local Authority Verifiers (via Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS))
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Services (Fire Engineering group)

2.4.2 Consultations included in-person meetings, conducted the week of 19-23 March 2018, as well as written submittal from various persons. 

2.5 Key Considerations

2.5.1 In completing this research, the following issues were considered:

  • Past research in Scotland on this topic
  • Review Panel views on this topic
  • How “complex” and “high-risk” buildings might be defined, and the qualifications and experience recommended for undertaking and verifying fire engineered solutions for such, in the Scottish context


Email: sarah.waugh@gov.scot

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