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Publication - Consultation analysis

Building standards - (fire safety) external wall systems: consultation analysis

An analysis of the responses to the public consultation on a review of building standards relating to the fire safety of external wall systems to help ensure the safety of people in and around Scotland’s buildings.

Building standards - (fire safety) external wall systems: consultation analysis
Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Introduction

1. Optimal Economics has been appointed by the Building Standards Division (BSD) of the Scottish Government to undertake an analysis of the responses to the public consultation on a review of building standards relating to the fire safety of external wall systems to help ensure the safety of people in and around Scotland's buildings.

2. The aim of the consultation was to obtain the views and opinions of stakeholders on the proposed changes to the building standards which covered five main areas:

  • Part 1: Mandatory Standard 2.7 relating to fire spread on external walls.
  • Part 2: Definition and ban of category 3 metal composite materials (MCM).
  • Part 3: Large scale fire test BS 8414.
  • Part 4: Consequential matters – combustible exemptions.
  • Part 5: Impact assessments.

Methodology

3. The analysis was undertaken in three main stages:

  • Stage 1 was a validation of responses to determine that they were relevant to this consultation, whether there were any duplicate responses or campaign responses and the development of a typology to reflect the respondents and their relationship to the building regulations.
  • Stage 2 was focused on establishing an appropriate framework for the analysis. The consultation combined quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection. For the open-ended questions, main themes were identified to enable further analysis of key issues.
  • Stage 3 was the full analysis and reporting of results which took account of client feedback at all stages of the research.

4. All responses to the "open" questions have been given an equal weighting, allowing every idea presented to be considered equally. Where possible we have used a number of simple bands to provide an indication of the frequency of an idea, although it is noted that this treats the response from an individual with the same weight as the response from a trade association which may have many members. Nevertheless, the following bands have been used to indicate the frequency with which a point was raised:

  • Few: up to three responses.
  • Several: four to nine responses.
  • Many: ten or more responses.

5. The consultation received a total of 76 responses which are shown below by stakeholder category.

Summary of Responses by Category
No. %
Construction Industry 6 7.9
Consultancy 7 9.3
Individuals 22 28.9
Local Authorities 8 10.5
Manufacturers 7 9.3
Other 9 11.8
Research Est./Fire Test Houses 2 2.6
Trade Associations 15 19.7
Total 76 100.0

Part 1: Mandatory Standard 2.7

6. A summary of the quantitative responses to Question 1 is shown below.

Q1: Do you agree or disagree with the proposal to remove the words " is inhibited" in the mandatory standard which is considered to be ambiguous and replace with the text "does not unduly promote fire spread taking into account the height and use of the building"
No. % of those answering(1)
Strongly Agree 19 26
Agree 21 29
Neither Agree or Disagree 12 16
Disagree 12 16
Strongly Disagree 9 12
Not Answered 3  
Total 76 100

(1) Percentages may not sum due to rounding

7. There was majority (55%) support for the proposed wording, primarily because it was felt to improve clarity. Respondents disagreeing with the proposed wording were often supportive of the intent of the change but felt that the proposed wording was just as vague or open to interpretation as the original wording. Respondents from both sides of the argument suggested alternative wording.

Part 2: Definition and Ban of Category 3 Metal Composite Material (MCM)

8. The consultation asked if respondents agreed or disagreed with the proposed definition of MCM category 3. A summary of the quantitative responses are shown below.

Q2.1: Do you agree with the definition for MCM Category 3?
No. % of those answering(1)
Strongly Agree 9 12
Agree 26 36
Neither Agree or Disagree 26 36
Disagree 7 10
Strongly Disagree 5 7
Not Answered 3  
Total 76 100

(1) Percentages may not sum due to rounding

9. No one response category achieved a majority, but 48% of respondents provided support for the definition compared to 17% who did not support the proposed definition. Some 36% of respondents were undecided about the proposal. Those supporting the definition felt that it improves clarity. Some specific points were raised in relation to thickness and calorific value by both respondents agreeing and disagreeing with the proposed definition. Those disagreeing also felt the definition was too restrictive.

10. The consultation asked if respondents felt the ban on MCM category 3 should be in regulation or guidance. A summary of the quantitative responses are shown below.

Q2.2: Do you think that the ban on MCM (Category 3) materials should be in guidance or regulation?
No. % of those answering(1)
Guidance 16 22
Regulation 43 60
Not Sure 13 18
Not Answered 4  
Total 76 100

(1) Percentages may not sum due to rounding

11. The majority of respondents (60%) felt that the ban should be in regulation. Those supporting the ban being in regulation felt that it provided a stronger statement than guidance and would discourage alternative solutions as guidance would be open to interpretation. Those supporting the ban being in guidance felt that guidance would be quicker to implement and change and would offer flexibility to change to a variety of situations and new innovative products.

Part 3: Large Scale Fire Test, BS 8414

12. The consultation set out in detail four options relating to large scale fire test BS 8414. These are summarised as follows:

  • Option 1 – April 2021 Addendum: This option re-affirms the decision to remove reference to BS 8414/BR 135 from the Technical Handbook and to notify BSD when used as an alternative approach.
  • Option 2 – Managed Use of BS 8414 to Address Risk: This option will cite reference to BS 8414/BR 135 in the Technical Handbook with tighter controls on the use and height of the building.
  • Option 3 – Regulatory Ban: This option proposes a regulatory ban i.e. A1 or A2 only in regulation for residential buildings with any storey more than 18m.
  • Option 4 – Any Alternative Proposal: This provides the opportunity for respondents to suggest alternative proposals for the Scottish Government to consider.

13. The consultation asked which of the four options was their preferred choice. A summary of the quantitative responses are shown below.

Q3: Which of the four options is your preferred choice?
No. % of those answering(1)
Option 1 11 16
Option 2 17 24
Option 3 23 33
Option 4 19 27
Not Answered 6  
Total 76 100

(1) Percentages may not sum due to rounding

14. Option 1 attracted the least support (16%), Options 2 and 4 had broadly similar levels of support (24% and 27% respectively with Option 3 attracting the most support (33%). Those favouring Option 1 felt that it was clearer and less complex than Options 2 and 3 and suggested that, while BS 8414 provides an idea of how external wall materials might react in a fire, it does not reflect real world construction practices.

15. Many respondents supporting Option 2 felt that there was a role for large scale system testing as it was the only way to stablish whether the chosen components work together in their end use application. It was also suggested that this option enabled BS 8414 to be used but it should be assessed/controlled by verifiers or third parties.

16. Respondents supporting Option 3 felt that it would remove any ambiguity and provide the most clarity for buildings over 18m. An outright ban was suggested as being the only way that safer cladding could be achieved.

17. Those respondents supporting Option 4 provided a range of alternative proposals.

Part 4: Consequential Matters – Combustible Exemptions

18. Part 4 of the consultation was concerned with the current list of exemptions for reaction to fire and asked if respondents felt the current list should be amended to include other penetrations. A summary of the quantitative responses is provided below.

Q4: Do you think that the current list of exemptions should be amended to include other penetrations e.g. cavity wall vents, boiler condensate pipes, drainage and overflow pipes, ventilation extract ducts, balanced flue liners?
No. % of those answering(1)
Yes 29 39
No 22 30
Unsure 23 31
Not Answered 2  
Total 76 100

(1) Percentages may not sum due to rounding

19. Respondents were broadly split across the three answers of yes, no and unsure. For those supporting an amended list, a number of suggestions were made in addition to changes to the wording of the existing list. Several respondents disagreeing with the proposal felt that increasing the list of exemptions could weaken the system and a few could offer conditional support in certain circumstances. For respondents unsure about the proposal, there was also some conditional support in specific circumstances and the suggestion that the list should only be expanded on the basis of suitable evidence.

Part 5: Impact Assessment

20. The consultation asked two questions on the impact of the proposals on different groups in society. The first considers the impact on equality groups and the second considers the business and regulatory impact. The quantitative results are summarised below.

Q5.1: Equality Impact Q5.2: Business & Regulatory Impact
No. % of those answering(1) No. % of those answering(1)
Yes 6 9 31 45
No 47 67 28 41
Unsure 17 24 10 14
Not Answered 6   7  
Total 76 100 76 100

(1) Percentages may not sum due to rounding

21. The majority (67%) of respondents did not believe the proposals would have an impact on equality. Those who felt there could be an impact highlighted disabled/people with mobility issues (as possibly being affected in a positive way) and more vulnerable residents of high-rise buildings as possibly being adversely affected. For the 45% of respondents who felt there would be a business and regulatory impact, this was primarily a result of increased costs.


Contact

Email: BuildingStandards@gov.scot