Nationwide Windows hosts informative fire door seminar for social housing professionals

To coincide with the launch of its latest product, Nationwide Windows held informative CPD-accredited seminars on fire doors at the Draycote Hotel in Rugby on 18 and 19 September.

‘The future of fire doors’ was one of a series of seminars Nationwide was hosting ahead of new requirement for CE Marking coming in to force on 1 November, which will mean all external fire doors must tested against European Standard BS EN 1634 (part 1 for fire, part 3 for smoke) as well as EN 14351-1.

The seminar saw a range of talks including the latest on relevant legislation, where the sector faces problems, the importance of third party certification, the latest solutions and products and of course, the impact of both Brexit and the Grenfell Tower tragedy and subsequent Hackitt review.

Speakers included Russell Day, CEO of the Association of Composite Door Manufacturers (ACDM), Chris Costall, compliance director at Nationwide Windows, managing director Dave Gomersall and technical director Dave Walker of Fire Door Systems (FDS), and Peter Barker, technical manager at Warringtonfire.

Day kicked off proceedings with an update on the composite fire door industry, the effects Grenfell has had on the industry and the complexity of testing and compliance for manufacturers. When discussing Grenfell, he explained what measures and tests were undertaken on several composite doors by the Metropolitan Police and Ministry of Housing, Communities, & Local Government (MHCLG), supported by the ACDM, and what the findings – and subsequent potential solutions – of these were.

MHCLG carried out two series of testing, initially 8 tests were carried out on doors removed from existing building that were similar to and manufactured by the same company as those installed in Grenfell Tower. These tests showed significant inconsistency in results and based on this, MHCLG decided to embark on a test program of doors manufactured by other companies. MHCLG obtained new doors from eight manufacturers and carried out a further twelve test involving 12 pairs of doorsets, each pair of doorsets was tested as an open-in and open-out installation. Although three tests gave fire resistance results in excess of 30 minutes in both open-in and open-out installations and another two in the open-in installation, the results did confirm that a degree of inconsistency in fire resistance times. Despite these inconsistencies, when referred to the MHCLG Expert Panel, formed following the Grenfell Tower fire and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), both stated the risk posed by fire resistant composite doors remains low. They also stated that, in their opinion, “major risk” posed by flat entrance doors was that self-closing devices that not been properly maintained, or had been disconnected or removed completely, was the major risk in the event of a fire – a pertinent point for housing stock managers to take note of.

Day also discussed third party certification of fire doors, which is not currently required by Building Regulations, saying the ACDM is encouraging its members to obtain this regardless – something Barker went on to discuss in more detail later. Day stressed the importance of assessments being based on primary test evidence. “We must base them on what we know about how that door will perform under fire,” he said. Finally, he discussed the importance of introducing a competency scheme for composite fire door installers.

Next was Costall’s talk on what manufacturers can do to help the social housing industry, focusing on the introduction of digital solutions. He began by explaining the measures Nationwide has taken since Grenfell to ensure its products are safe and fully compliant, including a breakdown of all the tests it put its doors and components through.

He then detailed the digital solutions now on offer, specifically the inclusion of a QR code on each product which provides invaluable information for both housing managers and tenants, including links to certifications, specific product details, evidence of CE Marks, and user and maintenance guides for residents. Moving forward, he detailed utilising third party software to simplify the process and reduce the time required to manage and maintain fire doors.

FDS’ Gomersall and Walker then took to the stage with a presentation on the new GRP fire door set system that they had developed and was being launched by Nationwide. A video was screened, demonstrating the rigorous and most demanding European fire testing undertaken on the system.   As a first, footage was shown from inside the test furnace to help delegates better understand the brutality and demands presented to the product. They explained the thinking behind their testing schedule, which saw them undertake more than 40 fire tests, in 3 different European countries using 3 different construction material, within a 5-month period. Each test demonstrated fire resistance performance well in excess of 30 minutes, proving the consistency and compliance of the door set system, and future proofing it for CE marking legislation.

Warringtonfire’s Barker finished the talks with a discussion on third party certification and how Brexit could affect things – for example a no-deal Brexit would mean a switch from CE Marking to UKCA Marking, though compliance with the requirements in the relevant European standards would remain the same. He also discussed BM TRADA’s certification schemes’ process, as well as the importance of correct installation. “There’s no point having a good product if it’s not installed correctly,” he said.

Barker finished by discussing maintenance certification schemes, noting an important point for housing managers that while third party certification schemes are – at the moment – still a voluntary service, the maintenance of a building’s fire protection measures is not. “There is a legal duty placed on the responsible person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to make sure their fire safety provisions have been maintained correctly,” he said. Certification schemes therefore provide the confidence that specified products will continue to perform as required, he explained.

The day ended with an innovative Q&A session – attendees had been requested to download an app at the start of the day which allowed them to anonymously ask questions on topics and points raised throughout the course of the day. Host Michelle Orpe gathered speakers on stage to go through submitted questions, which included further queries about Brexit’s impacts – attendees were reassured that in general the standards to adhere to should be unaffected – and more details on the products, systems and certification schemes mentioned throughout the day.