Association for Specialist Fire Protection

The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) wishes to convey its sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower tragedy and to pay tribute to the bravery and professionalism of the fire service. 

The incident highlights a number of concerns regarding fire safety in the built environment and demonstrates how vigilant we must all be when designing, supplying and installing fire protection in buildings.

Compartmentation and structural fire protection play a vital role in protecting escape routes and slowing the spread of fire and smoke. But tragic consequences can ensue if such systems are not adequately specified, installed and maintained; or are bypassed by rapid fire spread outside the building as appears to have happened at Grenfell House.

In relation to the fire at Grenfell House:

The ASFP is concerned that all cladding taken from buildings and tested so far has failed the Government’s screening regime. However, the Association recognises that at this stage the requirement for such cladding to meet the requisite Euroclass (limited combustibility - A2) has not been clear to all stakeholders, or has been bypassed by the use of desktop studies meaning that as a result many installed systems have not met that requirement.

This shows a disconnect between what was designed, supplied and approved and the Government’s expectations of the fire performance of the cladding. The Public Inquiry needs to investigate why this is, examine the processes used to justify any system and investigate why products supplied do not meet the expected performance. Furthermore, if third party documents were used to allow a lower performance; the Inquiry must examine how this was justified.
The ASFP believes that the initial focus on the cladding alone was too narrow and that the role of the insulation behind the cladding and of the geometry of the whole system needs investigating. The government has announced that there will be further large scale testing which will more faithfully model installed systems The ASFP supports this development.

While accepting the importance of insulating buildings for environmental reasons, the ASFP believes the Public Inquiry should also consider whether, it is appropriate to use combustible materials at all in these building applications, or whether their continued use should be permitted only with much more stringent controls and safeguards.

The ASFP believes that the Public Inquiry needs to look at the building control processes to ensure it has adequate rigor. There needs to be more adequate scrutiny of documents and inspection of installed fire protection and related items. ASFP believes increased inspection of installed fire protection is crucial, but this does not necessarily have to be done by Building Control; it could be conducted by a third party.

The ASFP also believes that Approved Document B needs to be revised to take into account changes in the built environment. This was requested by the Fire Sector Federation in the wake of the Lakanal House fire in 2009, where 6 people died. Recommendations were made there to review AD-B in respect of its usability, guidance in respect of cladding and to consider retrofitting sprinklers.

The ASFP supports the Fire Sector Federation position that sprinklers would have helped, both in the initial fire and in the control of subsequent fires in compartments further up the building. However, it must be recognised that that such rapid external fire spread has the capacity to bypass both active and passive measures installed.

Looking to the future
Following a round table discussion at International Firex 2016 which identified fragmentation and a lack of transparency and accountability in the construction industry, the ASFP together with a number of other stakeholders has been working under the RIBA umbrella on a Plan of Works for fire safety.
Such a Plan of Works uses the RIBA project management stages, identifies all the stakeholders and links the tasks required of them at each stage. The role of design, specification, contracting and installation are paid particular scrutiny, with each stage requiring sign off by the relevant stakeholder and/or a third party as appropriate. In this way, the chances of an unsafe or non-conforming design are minimised and should help prevent a disaster of the type seen at Grenfell House from happening again. More information can be found at