What is the problem with an over-reliance on British Standards within the Fire Industry?
Dame Judith Hackitt, recognised in her report that the over-reliance on standardised solutions is one of the building industry's key failings, resulting in 'an over-reliance on the system' that 'discourages[s] ownership and accountability for decisions'.
An expectation that all products fully meet a specific standard, limits competition from alternative safe and effective products (including both existing technologies and potential new products) that do not completely comply with those standards. This reduces consumer choice and results in innovative new products that could potentially improve fire safety being excluded from the market. To exclude a system that is outside of the scope of a standard, as opposed to a technical justification, results in a restriction of competition which further stifles innovation.
The exploration of new technology is an important part of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which states:
'Where the responsible person implements any preventive and protective measures, he must do so on the basis of the principles specified in Part 3 of Schedule 1.' Part 3 of Schedule 1 states under Article 10:
PRINCIPLES OF PREVENTION, adapting to technical progress.
It is essential that fire protection standards, products and systems keep pace with new expectations of fire and structural safety in the built environment – especially to maintain the reduction of fire-related injuries and fatalities in the future.