The horrifying images from the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire in the summer will no doubt be one of the enduring moments of 2017. I am sure we can all agree that we all hope to never see the likes of anything like that ever again.
As a result of the fire, checks were done on hundreds upon hundreds of similar apartment buildings up and down the country, and a worryingly large number failed the Government’s testing, with many having been found with similar cladding and insulating products that the Grenfell Tower had. Many are now undergoing works to rectify that.
But it’s not only the safety of tower blocks that was brought into focus. I remember going on leads to people’s homes in the weeks after the fire, and never have I seen the public so fine tuned to fire safety in windows. Suddenly, there was an acute awareness from home owners that if the worst was to happen, they needed to be able to exit their homes quickly. This is something I always impress upon people when I sit my leads anyway, and explain to them the requirements according to Building Regulations. But this was a much more proactive and pressing issue for home owners in the immediate aftermath of Grenfell.
It’s not just windows however where fire safety is vital. Solid roofs is perhaps an area where we are yet to focus on when it comes to fire safety. How clear is it that these products fire regs? Do we know that they are completely safe?
Lots of insulation
One of the major contributing factors towards the rapid spread of the fire at Grenfell was the insulating cladding panels that were retrofitted to the building. Insulating foam was a major component of these panels, and were later found to be inadequate for the job. It was a cheaper option that others out there, which would have been safer.
When it comes to our own solid roof industry, there are a lot of options out there, all of them incorporating plenty of insulation. Be it foam like Kingspan, or plain old polystyrene. How safe do we know these to be? How many roof makers out there have had these roof systems fire tested to make sure their materials don’t let them down in the worst case scenario?
I’m not saying that solid roofs haven’t been tested against fire. They might have been. The point I’m making is that I bet many installers don’t know. There has been much marketing and information around these products, but I have to admit that I haven’t read anything or been told anything by anyone to say that these roofs and what they’re made from can withstand fire.
With doors it is clear. You have FD30 and FD60 rated doors. This is a well known measurement of fire safety with this product, and there are several well known suppliers of such products in our industry. But I bet very few of us out there could reel of what fire safety stats can be applied to solid roofs.
This is very much a subject that has come to light for me and others since the Grenfell disaster. It is only when crises arise that we think to look at other things in other markets to see if there is any risks elsewhere. I think that if Grenfell had not happened I may not have been writing this article today. But it did, and here we are. And it’s safety that should be the primary concern here. If there are roofing systems out there which could be at risk from fire and could make those situations worse then they need to be identified, isolated, fixed and then altered for future production.
Solid roof regulation required
It was in November that I wrote a post asking if we really did know the ins and outs of solid roofs and the regulations that apply to them. You can click here to read up on that one. With what I believe to be ambiguity when it comes to fire safety and solid roofs, this one reinforces my opinion that the solid roof market needs completely new and stringent regulation to prevent accidents from happening.
Now, if you Google “solid roof fire regulations” it will give you search results for fire ratings on individual materials, like steel, like tiles and other things, but nothing from what I could see on the actual finished product as a whole. This for me is a problem. Surely a fully finished product like a solid roof should be going through such testing. Again, it might, I’m not seeing anything to say one way or the other. But if they are not, then they definitely should be. These products are packed full of flammable materials that need to be prevented from making fires worse.
The more questions that are thrown up around solid roofs the more I am sure that our industry has rushed into selling these products without knowing the full picture around them. I don’t believe we are all fully clear on the regulations around them, and I don’t believe that the regulations themselves are clear enough. Then there is the fire question. My opinion is, if we don’t know with enough certainty about the rules and regs around solid roofs, then we shouldn’t be selling them, it’s as simple as that. There is a lot that could go wrong with these products, and all it takes is one shoddy installation and a terrible accident for the worst to happen.
I think that perhaps we need to get together as an industry, maybe conference style, to really wrap our heads around the ifs and buts when it comes to solid roofs. There are some serious grey areas cropping up in this area now and we need to get on top of them now before it gets any worse.
What I do want to do is to invite solid roof makers to leave information about their own products via the comments section below. If you roof has been fire tested as a complete product, then please let us know below. If you’re a supplier who can shed light on this matter and add some information to the conversation, the comments section is yours. I think this could be a serious issue and we need to clarify things now, for the sake of the industry and home owners.
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