Fire sprinkler casings – a compliance loophole for LAs and HAs?

Local authorities, housing associations and contractor partners could be contravening the UK government’s ‘Timber Procurement Policy’ (TPP) guidelines and their own sustainability procedures if the plywood casings being used to cover fire sprinkler pipework are not FSC® certified.

With LAs and HAs across the UK focusing on fire protection and tenant safety in tower blocks, many have already started the process of installing fire sprinkler systems in high rise buildings and are using plywood casings to conceal the orange CPVC sprinkler pipework in flats and public areas.

As these products are manufactured from wood, specifiers and contractors should be stipulating that they are FSC® or PEFC certified, required by the government’s TPP as well as the latest edition of the Timber Procurement Advisory Note (TPAN) from Defra.

Defra’s guidance on compliance with the TPP states:

Government procurers and their suppliers should have documentary evidence to show the timber supplied is at a minimum from legal and sustainable sources. This evidence should include full chain of custody from the forest source(s) to the end user.

Acceptable forest certification schemes provide this evidence of legal and/or sustainable timber. Suppliers and buyers must check evidence to verify its validity. Approved schemes include the two international certification schemes: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

In addition, where LAs, HAs, contractor partners or merchants have their own ‘green’ or sustainable procurement policies in place, using and supplying non-FSC® products will also be contravening these compliance procedures.

Encasement’s Managing Director, Martin Taylor, explained:

“The TPP and TPAN guidance exists to encourage and enforce a responsible approach to global environmental issues, such as climate change, illegal de-forestation and the use of sustainably sourced timber.”

He added:

“Even though there is an obligation to use FSC certified boxing under TPAN, non-FSC casings are still available in the market, which presents a risk of non-compliance for specification and procurement personnel. Clearly the best way of address this is to tighten the specification clauses and specify only FSC Chain of Custody certified products. In our view FSC is the default choice and not an option. Today, it’s impossible to purchase non-FSC toilet paper, so why should companies still be able to supply fire sprinkler casings that aren’t manufactured from FSC certified materials. We always advise specifiers to avoid the risk of non-compliance and look for the FSC Chain of Custody (COC) certificate number against each product line that is ordered and supplied. If it’s not present on the invoice and delivery note, then it’s probably not FSC. Even FSC themselves say that if you don’t know where your timber and paper come from, you could be part of the problem.”

For reference, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) procurement Factsheet, recommends the following procedures and checks when purchasing:

  • Source from an FSC certified supplier. All FSC certified organisations are included within the FSC certificate database at https://info.fsc.org.
  • Check that the certificate is valid and that it covers the appropriate product categories using the database at https://info.fsc.org.
  • Specify FSC certified materials when placing your order and let your supplier know that you need them to make an FSC claim on their sale documents.
  • Check that the delivery note and/or invoice clearly identifies the FSC certified products and includes the supplier’s FSC certificate code.