“Circular economy” needs Safer Structures
Cable is the nerve system of every building. It travels through buildings and is present in every single space inside. Cable has a big influence on outcomes for every building and all the people who live, work or pass through them.
Cable is capable of being hero or villain in the event of fire. The right cable will only ever be on the side of safety.
Cable authenticity, compliance, traceability and performance is a safety imperative that cannot be ignored. Cable supply has to be properly policed to consistently perform.
Tratos launched its Safer Structures Campaign in response to what it felt was a short-fall within CPR in the UK and the need for minimum CCA. After Grenfell Tratos set about pushing to ensure that outcomes from the Hackitt review encompassed legislative and standards’ changes – and compliance and authenticity checks – that would also guarantee the fire performance of structures’ cabling.
Tratos was concerned that, in identifying ACM cladding as the prime contributor to the fire’s spread, the role cable has to play – in either advancing the spread of fire and potentially lethal smoke or in reducing smoke and resisting fire – had been overlooked.
Both have to be considered fully.
The UK has to ensure that the right steps are taken across all important areas and that they are guided by those who understand how to get the best deal for safety. Industry cannot and will not police itself. Product failures happen because of inadequate surveillance. British Standards, whether for cable or any other building product, need to be of the highest level. ‘Adequate’ is not enough.
Ninety % of fires occur inside buildings, where we spend around 90% of our time. A fire can engulf a room in three minutes compared with 25 minutes 50 years ago, and the change is down to increased levels of plastic in our homes. People escaping fire have only a few minutes before smoke makes orientation difficult. Dense and corrosive fumes make escape – and rescue teams’ jobs – harder and more dangerous.
The UK is one of the prime markets for substandard cable and poor market surveillance has taken its toll. Fakes undercut authentic product built to perform and protect. Construction Products Regulation (CPR), EU legislation, could be the UK’s saviour, yet there’s a lingering lack of desire to embrace it, monitor the market, enforce the legislation and apprehend abusers.
Government has one chance to get its response correct, implemented and policed going forward so that residents, landlords, architects, suppliers, construction and maintenance contractors and every other stakeholder has reassurances about the products they use and homes that are safe.
Cable falsely marked as the product specified fails standards tests – with the potential for terrible consequences. Some suppliers will offer alternatives to specified cables which appear fit for purpose. When this happens, and cable is bought and sold in good faith, there is an issue around how well both parties understand what led the specifier to request cable that meets a particular standard.
In October 2017 the BBC reminded us a now-defunct Turkish cable manufacturer, Atlas Kablo, the name behind the sale of 11 million metres of substandard cable to the UK – is responsible for a significant amount of fake product that remains unaccounted for.
We have to go further with the Fire and Rescue Authority too. Its officers need to understand more about how cable performs in either facilitating or stalling the spread of fire, and the timescales involved. The importance of this process and communication cannot be stressed enough. The Hackitt Review’s belief that buildings must be viewed as a system with different layers of protection considered in order to make structures safe on a case-by-case basis is welcomed. The key is to find the best way to achieve this level of scrutiny.
The Tratos Safer Structures Campaign urges the Government to set cable fire standards at the heart of the Review’s recommendations. Call for Evidence documents did not touch on the issues surrounding cable fire safety; cables were referenced under “other issues” relevant to fire safety. Cable has to be up front in our fire safety planning. The classification of fire resistance standards for cables demand careful attention. Even where cable regulation is properly enforced, the standards are lacking if they are not followed correctly.
Current regulation is not being sufficiently well enforced. The Safer Structures Campaign brings together those supporting strengthened cable standards and better fire safety from across the industry. Its members want to work with the UK Government to introduce a higher minimum standard of cable classification, equivalent to Euroclass Cca, to ensure a limited fire growth rate from cables in an emergency, giving people more time to exit buildings and ultimately helping to increase public safety.
The findings from Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety are an important step forward. However expert help should be sought to help stakeholders understand cable’s impact during a fire event. These experts should also make recommendations as to the correct measures and how to police them. The UK has the opportunity to prove itself as a leader in building standards and fire safety on a world stage, introducing a higher ‘minimum’ standard for cables and safe homes for people. The time is now.
Tratos is actively campaigning for change in the following areas: