Commentary by Michael Strömgren - How can we ensure our fire safety in Europe? - Brandskydd, Ventilationsbrandskydd, nödbelysning - Briab

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Commentary by Michael Strömgren - How can we ensure our fire safety in Europe?

16 April, 2021

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, a major debate has been ongoing in Europe on how to ensure fire safety in practice. In a way, it’s a never-ending debate in which we put society’s control ahead of safety, with the risk of excessive bureaucracy and onerous regulation. The Nordic countries are an interesting example where we see a directional shift from authority control towards own responsibility by market actors but with elements of certified actors or independent control. The Nordic countries have also developed a standard for inspection and control of fire safety, INSTA 952, which may become a European standard, as there is interest in the issue by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

Commentary by Michael Strömgren

Reporting on the situation in Europe

Less than a year ago, we compiled the results of a study on the status of fire safety inspections and control in Europe. Is the focus on authority controls or self-monitoring? Do third-party inspections have to be independent? What does the flow from planning to production to management look like? I presented the results yesterday to the Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP), which falls under the European Commission. About 100 participants were present, including the EU countries’ equivalents of the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, as well as interest groups in the sector. It is striking that authority control appears to prevail at every stage. That’s probably also the biggest difference between the countries, i.e. the power of authorities such as city planning offices and emergency services. Many countries have quite strict control systems yet limited possibilities for fire safety engineering (analytical) dimensioning.

The unbroken information chain

At the same time, there are big similarities, like in the type of documentation required (fire safety documentation, maintenance plans, drawings, relationship documents). So far, no country requires BIM models or other digital documents. However, we know that the UK is in the process of bringing in requirements for the Golden Thread of Information, which involves a broader approach in which, for example, data from BIM models can constitute an important basis. As Scandinavia digitises its building regulations, we can see that the next step is to digitise the control process. More on this topic will follow this summer, when we present the results of our research project Den obrutna informationskedjan för brandskydd (The unbroken information chain for fire safety; funded by Formas, Vinnova and the Swedish Energy Agency).

Michael Strömgren reports for the Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP)

Collaboration by rules and the market is key

Fire safety has rarely been at such a high decision-making level in the EU as now. The reason is partly the Grenfell Tower fire and partly that the construction sector is not effective and generally fails to meet society’s expectations of fire safety. There are also problems in that fire safety is a highly regulated field, all too often leading to bureaucracy and unnecessary costs, which in itself hampers innovation and new thinking. Almost all countries are also narrow minded in a sector where disciplines ‘look after their own’ rather than seeking horizontal development cooperation. This is also one reason for the EU’s Better Regulation Agenda, which aims to create more effective regulation. It’s a difficult balance to get right in the regulation, but at the same time there are great opportunities when several parties work together. Experience from outside the construction field also shows that digitisation can be key to both increased efficiency and better quality. But the key is of course co-creation and making the best use of the strengths of both regulation and incentives in the market.

 

 

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