Fire safety design – “Race to the bottom”? - Briab - Brand, Risk & Säkerhet


Fire safety design – ”Race to the bottom”?

The heading “race to the bottom” might sound like a sensational newspaper heading, but in fact it comes from the official report on the Grenfell fire in London last year. The work on the evaluation of the English building regulation and control system has been in progress since the summer of 2017. The investigator Dame Judith Hackett is shocked by how the system is made up, and how it works in practice.


At the end of last year, a sub-report was released: Building a Safer Future, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. It identified large problems within the following areas:

  • The regulation system with associated guidance is too complex and unclear
  • Roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined
  • Tools to assess and ensure expertise are insufficient
  • Supervision, sanctions and assurance of compliance are inadequate
  • Residents who are worried for their safety do not have a clear way of influencing their situation
  • Testing, certification and marketing of construction products and systems is complex and difficult to understand

When we reflect on these shortcomings, we feel anxious about the Swedish system. Sweden has regulations with large amounts of freedom, and a liberal monitoring system. Here there are many similarities to England. The system is, in certain areas, unclear, for instance with respect to products and opinions, and it is difficult to understand. We do not need to get ahead of things, but critical questions must be asked in order to gain better knowledge about the situation in Sweden.

We are starting HOLIFAS

We are delighted that, in May, Briab started a one-year research project, HOLIFAS (a holistic approach for fire safety requirements and design of facade systems), where we will consider the questions from the Swedish perspective. The project is carried out in collaboration with Lund University, Swedish Universities of the Built Environment, RISE, among others. The work is funded by Brandforsk. One part of the investigation is about technical requirements for facades, and the other part about the system perspective. We are leading the latter at Briab, which also includes Brian Meacham, a leading international researcher in fire protection and system issues. Brian was our guest at Briab’s Malmö office in May, and gave some interesting ideas on wood, the research project as well as on our work on digitalization.

Comparison between England and Sweden

In the project HOLIFAS, we will investigate the English and the Swedish building regulations and control systems with respect to the findings of the  English study. Using a systematic research method, a comparative analysis will be implemented to establish if there are similar problems in Sweden. The work is planned to be concluded and presented in June 2019, six months before the committee for modern building regulations will provide suggestions on a new Swedish building regulation and control system.

Worthwhile reading on the study:

Download the English study:

Image: Natalie Oxford

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