The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has expressed concerns about building fire safety, specifically the safety of modern methods of building construction.
Spokespersons said that buildings are increasingly being designed, approved and built “despite a lack of understanding about their performance”. This statement sparked outrage among representatives of modular builders, who hit back saying the sector made “no compromise on safety.”
As a firefighter (or if you’re thinking of applying for a firefighter role) it’s important to stay in the loop with NFCC action and concerns. The NFCC’s work make the UK Fire Service a better and safer place to work for firefighters. Also, if you’re serious about getting a firefighter job or promotion, it’s crucial to be in the know with current news and affairs affecting you and your FRS.
Let’s dig in to the NFCC’s worries regarding this matter.
The NFCC’s Position on Building Fire Safety
The NFCC’s position statement on modern methods of construction highlighted concerns about 3D modular or volumetric construction. This is a form of off-site construction where buildings are put together by connecting a series of pre-built sections, or ‘modules’. It’s also called prefabricated building.
Another concern was engineered mass timber products like Cross Laminated Timber being used for high-rise buildings, buildings housing vulnerable people, or buildings where a ‘stay put’ policy is in place. This is where residents are advised to stay inside the building in the event of a fire, until firefighters control the blaze.
The NFCC has also called on the government to tighten the current rules for testing modern methods of construction. MMC, or ‘smart construction’, again relates to a modular, non-traditional method of building new homes, by creating structural units off-site and putting them together on-site.
The NFCC’s protection and business safety scrutiny committee chair, added that the current regulatory system has “already been described and accepted by government as ‘not fit for purpose’ even for traditional construction techniques, this adds additional uncertainty in the built environment.”
Significant Change is Needed
The NFCC said that although it would welcome a current reform of building safety, this alone is simply not enough. As they argue, “significant cultural change” is needed, both to improve competency levels across the sector, and to make sure that MMC is promoted and used in a way that provides safe buildings for all. The Building Safety Act only came into being in April following the lengthy inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The NFCC wants to help prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again. On 14 June 2017, a high-rise fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower flats in North Kensington. Eight fire engines attended the scene, along with 60 firefighters. The death toll was 72, with over 70 others being injured.
A spokesperson for the trades body Make UK Modular said it was eager to meet with NFCC representatives at the earliest opportunity to discuss the concerns raised, and offer reassurance.
The NFCC continue to advocate for building safety, and we’ll keep you updated with their progress!