64% of main contractors aren't aware of the correct fire safety classifications

64% of main contractors aren’t aware of the correct fire safety classifications

Two-thirds (64%) of main contractors admit they aren’t aware that manufacturers should be using extended field of application (EXAP) standards to assess fire performance. Further to this, over half (55%) say that they don’t know where EXAP should be used.

The survey of over 200 construction professionals also revealed that over half of main contractors (59%) did not know that 3rd party testing, extension and classification should take place to verify drylining systems.

EXAP is the standard used to extend a fire test’s results to other similar systems. It was added to Approved Document B (ADB) in 2019 and is the only stated method of making these extensions or assessments. The current version of ADB explains that products and systems for fire resistance should be tested to the latest EN standards and use substantial evidence conducted by 3rd parties.

Robert Cridford, technical manager at drywall manufacturer Siniat, said: “Drylining makes up probably the largest element of fire resistance within a building, so the only way to achieve adequate building safety is by testing and specifying drylining systems to the highest possible standards. This means that the Approved Document B should be followed to the letter and EXAP classifications reports should be present in all drylining specifications. Yet, concerningly, our survey shows that awareness of EXAP amongst main contractors is particularly low.

“EXAP is more rigorous than previous testing standards and demands extensive additional testing, extension and the classification of a manufacturer’s entire portfolio of systems. So, it is natural that such a major shift within the industry wouldn’t take place overnight. But this shift is vital and now that manufacturers have the means to achieve this higher standard, contractors must ensure that they are requesting classification reports for the products used on their sites.”

In addition, when contractors were asked if they are familiar with the contents detailed in ADB only 18% were aware that it contains the guidelines for fire safety building regulations.

Furthermore, one in ten respondents said that they still look for product testing against BS standards and are unaware that testing and classification to EN standards is the primary means of demonstrating compliance.

Some of the confusion is caused by legacy references to BS476 in ADB which still appear in some tables. And in some cases, the EXAP standards or test standards are not completely in place, such as partial penetrations, or shaftwalls, where this happens historical methods may have to be used. The government recently announced that the fire safety guidance in ADB is currently under consultation and this would mean the removal of the national classification system for construction products (BS 476 series).

Robert adds: “At Siniat, we don’t want to use grey areas. As an industry, no one should be relying on unclear exceptions just because they can be interpreted in a way that makes testing and specifying materials quicker or easier. If we are serious about building safety, everyone should be following the most robust fire safety standards possible for that application. The best advice we can give to any main contractor that is unsure of the method of testing for a particular part of a project, is to ask the manufacturer for technical specification support as they should be able to provide 3rd party classification reports for many drylining systems they produce.”

Since 2019, Siniat has made a huge investment in achieving third-party EXAP classifications for 700 of its partitions. These official third-party reports will be included in project specification packs as standard from February 2023.

To find out more about its 3rd party classifications, please visit https://www.siniat.co.uk/en-gb/uk/exap

ABOUT

Etex is a leading manufacturer of innovative lightweight construction materials, specialising in drywall, passive fire protection, fire stopping, and steel framing systems. Part of the global Etex Group and with three leading brands under its Building Performance division (Siniat, Promat and FSi), Etex provides extensive technical knowledge and support to its customers, alongside a comprehensive product offering.

Its ability to deliver high performance fully-tested systems combined with the peace of mind that comes from a dedicated technical support team has made Etex a trusted, go-to supplier in a number of markets, including the residential, build to rent, education, healthcare, hotel and leisure and warehousing sectors. Taking a collaborative approach to construction, Etex is committed to building strong relationships with clients, main contractors, sub-contractors, distributors, merchants and architects, to ensure that their projects run smoothly and successfully.

Across the UK and ROI, Etex operates out of seven facilities, employs over 600 people and has an annual turnover of over £250m. Etex is constantly investing in its people and infrastructure, which includes developing a multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility which will double the Bristol-based manufacturing capacity for its Siniat brand upon opening.