Scottish Advice Note Technical Working Group minutes: 13 May 2020

Minutes from the second 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.

Attendees and apologies


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


  • Luke Bisby, University of Edinburgh
  • Shona Harper, Building Standards, SG

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.

2. Note of first meeting 22 April 2020

The chair provided a summary of discussions from the previous meeting held on the 22 April 2020 and invited members to make any comments. One comment was made relating to Item 5 and an amended meeting note will be circulated to members. [Post meeting note: An finalised agreed note of meeting 1 was circulated to members on 13 May 2020].

3. Ministerial Working Group – mortgage lending

Members of the working group were updated on the work of the Ministerial Working Group on Mortgage Lending. The key points were:

  • mortgage lending is a reserved matter to the UK Government
  • continued issues around mortgage lending and cladding throughout the UK
  • discussions involving SG, UK Finance, RICS and UK Government officials are ongoing
  • willingness on behalf of all interested parties to move the situation forward
  • reiterated that applications of building regulations applies to new building work and does NOT apply retrospectively to existing buildings

4. Competency

  • officials provided background to the paper from the Local Government and Communities Committee evidence sessions in November 2019 and January 2020
  • questions were asked by the Committee around the competency of those bodies who carry out the BS 8414 fire tests and the skills of people who interpret and use the test results
  • contractual arrangements between the building owner and contractor are out with the building standards system 
  • responsibility for compliance with building regulations lies with the ‘relevant person’ (building owner / building warrant applicant)
  • local authorities role in granting building warrants and carrying out ‘reasonable enquiry’ prior to accepting or rejecting the completion certificate was explained
  • various specialisms of façade engineers and the role of the Society of Facade Engineering (SFE) has in setting standards was explained
  • local authority verifiers require systems in place to maintain the level of suitably qualified and experienced staff to undertake their verification role
  • affiliation to professional institutions means that members are bound by the institution’s code of conduct or code of ethics
  • the following examples of professional institutions where some members may have the competence to interpret and apply the BS 8414 fire test results including was provided (but not limited to the following), the:  
    • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) 
    • Institution of Fire Engineers
    • the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE)
    • Chartered Institute of Building
    • Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
    • Chartered Incorporation of Architectural Technologists
    • Royal Institute of British Architects etc
  • note that professionals should not conduct work outside their area of competence and each institution has their own disciplinary and appeals procedures to enforce this
  • the draft competency framework used by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for their personnel was provided in the paper. This framework is still being considered by the SFRS
  • accreditation of those Bodies carrying out BS 8414 fire tests is highlighted in the paper
  • members discussed that external wall cladding was not given any detailed consideration in fire safety risk assessments prior to Grenfell
  • the majority of members agreed that external wall cladding assessments are specialised and should be used to inform the Fire Risk Assessment for the building
  • fire risk assessors are unlikely to have the necessary skills to carry out a fire performance assessment of the cladding system and this task should be undertaken by specialists
  • members recognised that innovation of design by professionals would require various layers of expertise and competency
  • there was general agreement amongst members that Chartered Fire Engineers with appropriate knowledge and experience in fire testing of external wall cladding systems could carry out the fire performance assessment of cladding systems where:
    • the system failed a BR 135 performance assessment or
    • no information on the fire performance of the cladding system was available

5. Fire Doors

Members were provided with background to Annex A of the MHCLG Consolidate Advice Note in relation to composite fire doors following the Grenfell Tower fire.

  • Annex A is targeted advice for building owners on assurance and assessment of flat entrance fire doors and includes a flow chart for GRP composite doors to assist in assessing risk
  • attention was drawn to the fire door guidance in the Local Government Association guide for Fire safety in purpose-built flats and the equivalent practical guidance in Scotland for high rise domestic buildings. [Post meeting note: It should also be noted that the Home office guidance for sleeping accommodation, National Fire Chiefs Council guidance for specialised housing and the equivalent Scottish guidance provides detailed guidance on fire doors]
  • the differences in building standards in Scotland was highlighted i.e. 60 minutes fire resistance required for new flat entrance door sets since 1 May 2005
  • there was no strong feelings either way whether the GRP composite fire door flow chart should be included in the Scottish Advice Note [post meeting note: the general consensus from comments received is that the Scottish Advice Note does not require supplementary guidance on fire doors, given the availability of existing guidance]

6. Scottish Advice Note (Draft 1)

Members were provided with an overview of the draft Scottish Advice Note. It was emphasised that members will have the opportunity to comment on the document as it develops. General comments were:

  • that the guidance will be a stand-alone guide for Scotland
  • the purpose of the advice note for building owners / managers who are considering the risk to life from the rapid spread of fire on external wall cladding systems and other external features such as spandrel panels and balconies
  • the guide focuses on residential buildings with a sleeping risk [Post meeting note – further clarification was sought from the chair of the UK Government Expert Panel and MHCLG on the type of residential buildings within scope – a discussion paper will be produced for the next meeting]
  • the advice note is concerned with the risk to life posed by the fire performance of external wall cladding systems and other features.
  • the advice is not concerned with property protection or business continuity which is out with the scope of the legislation and associated published guidance
  • although the guidance will apply to existing residential buildings in Scotland, consistency in advice and messaging with the UK approach will be adopted where considered appropriate;
  • for example, the trigger height of 11m rather than 18m to align with the Technical Handbooks guidance introduced from 1 October 2019 will be used as the benchmark to assess risk
  • the role of reliance on fire and rescue service intervention and its impact on risk was discussed
  • members raised the subject of how assessors make a determination on cladding systems on existing buildings allowing changes within the TH`s over time. Application of building regulations to new building work was emphasised and not routinely applied to existing buildings
  • residential buildings with vulnerable occupants (e.g. hospitals and care homes) will require special consideration due to the delayed evacuation of occupants from those premises
  • the interaction between the fire safety risk assessment and other fire specialisms such as external wall appraisals, structural engineering reports and fire engineering solutions was discussed
  • members were unanimous that the risk based approach was essential when applying the guidance to existing buildings to allow flexibility, including those building partially clad with MCM (PE)
  • members discussed the need for guidance on partially clad buildings and the inclusion of guidance on ‘sandwich panels’ which will require further consideration
  • members were invited to make any comments and track changes to the Scottish Advice Note (Draft 1) by Wednesday 20 May 2020

7. AOB

  • Members were informed of the date of the next Ministerial Working group as being June 11 2020
  • Members were also informed of a proposed document PAS 79 (3) – ‘Appraisal of External Wall Construction’. [Post meeting note – PAS number likely to change and move away from the fire risk assessment theme].   

8. Date of next meeting

 Wednesday 27th May 14:00 – 16:00 [post meeting note: this date has subsequently been changed to 3rd June 14:00 – 16:00 to allow more time consider all comments received and issue a second draft].

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