Fire Safety Mission for Europe: Modern Building Alliance joins forces with IAFSS

Fire Safety Mission for Europe: Modern Building Alliance joins forces with IAFSS

On 3 December, a workshop by the International Association of Fire Safety Science (IAFSS) was organised in Brussels, bringing together over 100 representatives of the fire safety community to discuss the importance of science in fire safety and to define a Fire Safety Mission for Europe. Our Executive Chair, Quentin de Hults, presented the views of the industry on the need for fire safety science together with pinfa. He stressed the importance of fire safety science for product development and innovation but also as a basis to inform policies and fire prevention measures. He also raised a number of technical and societal questions that should be answered with the help of fire safety science.

The event comes as a response to European Commission’s publication of its outline for “Horizon Europe”, the research & innovation programme which will follow Horizon 2020, with a proposed budget of around 100 billion € for 2021-2028. The original proposal makes no mention of fire safety.

The new proposed structure for Horizon Europe will build on thematic “pillars” (Health, Inclusive and Secure Society, Digital and Industry, Climate, Energy and Mobility and Food and Natural Resources) and horizontal “missions”. The definition of a “Fire Safety Mission” is particularly suitable for the inclusion of fire safety in Horizon Europe, as fire safety is truly horizontal in nature, cutting across a broad variety of potential themes.

IAFSS launched a position paper calling for action concerning fire research and engineering needs for the future, the IAFSS Agenda 2030 for a Fire Safe World. Using the IAFSS Agenda 2030 as a starting point for dialogue, the IAFSS and International Standardisation Organisation Technical Committee on Fire safety (ISO TC92) invited all fire safety stakeholders to a workshop to define a Fire Safety Mission for Europe. Stakeholders will help develop a research roadmap and potentially white papers, to facilitate the generation of directed funding towards fire safety science research to address emerging societal and environmental challenges.

Key takeaways from this productive workshop are:

  • the need to make fire science more proactive
  • the importance to strengthen collaboration between academics, fire fighters and industry
  • to work on fire safety awareness for professionals and citizens
  • to take a holistic view on fire safety, involving all disciplines and aspects
  • to consider the strong social aspect and be inclusive

Modern Building Alliance stands ready to contribute to these aspects and is proud to have supported this workshop.

Stakeholders discuss how to improve fire safety at European Parliament event

Stakeholders discuss how to improve fire safety at European Parliament event

On 28 November 2018, the Modern Building Alliance and the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) organised a roundtable event ‘Fire safety: setting the scene for fire safe European buildings’ in the European Parliament. The event was also supported by MEP Bendt Bendtsen (EPP) and MEP Theresa Griffin (S&D) who both acknowledged the need for better and harmonised data collection and knowledge-sharing between countries to achieve better fire safety in Europe.

As recent tragic events have rightly triggered a renewed concern on how to improve fire safety in Europe, the event was a timely opportunity to take stock of the several initiatives put forward in the EU over the past year. Fulvia Raffaelli, Head of Unit in DG GROW, presented an update on the work of the Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP), showing good progress when it comes to the work streams on prevention and experience sharing.

The event also gave the opportunity to many different stakeholders to present their perspective. Industry stakeholders, fire fighters, MEPs and Commission’s officials, all agree to take the work on fire safety forward and ensure a holistic approach with accurate data to improve fire safety in Europe.

Importantly, the event was the opportunity to present a new report on fatal residence fires by EuroFSA and the Dutch Fire Service Academy (IFV) where smoking and defective electrical appliances are identified as important causes for fatal residence fires. The report also concludes that most fatal residential fires ignite on upholstered furniture, beds and matrasses and textiles, including clothes. This report is a first step towards a better understanding of fatal residential fires in Europe and precise and up-to-date fire statistics that can support a more efficient regulatory framework.

Find more details about the event here, including presentations of the different speakers. You can find more details about the programme here.

MEPs take another step toward increased fire safety in Europe

MEPs take another step toward increased fire safety in Europe

25 September 2018

Today, the European Parliament’s Committee on Budget (BUDG) adopted an amendment for a pilot project on fire safety to be included in the EU’s 2019 budget. The Modern Building Alliance would like to congratulate the BUDG Committee and all the MEPs that have supported this initiative which will strengthen the EU commitment to fire safety and support a breakthrough in fire statistics and prevention. The pilot project was first proposed by the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), led by MEP Bendt Bendtsen and supported by 23 other MEPs across most political groups and aim to mend the data gaps on fire statistics and implement pan-European awareness fire safety campaign.

Quentin de Hults, Executive Chair of the Modern Building Alliance said: “Understanding the key risk factors is essential to identify effective actions. This pilot project can help Member States in their fire prevention efforts and make sure the rate of fire fatalities in Europe keeps going down”.

We currently experience a lack of EU-wide statistics about fire safety while data are essential to identify risk factors and most effective prevention measures. Efforts to prevent the development and consequences of fires require building occupants to understand which safety precautions or emergency actions need to be taken and in which circumstances. The pilot project will start by gathering better statistics and would recommend EU-level actions to support fire safety and fire prevention efforts of Member States, turning into a possible pan-European fire safety awareness campaign.

The 2019 EU budget will be voted by the European Parliament plenary in October and should be agreed between the Council and the European Parliament later this year. Once approved, the Commission will be responsible for implementing this two-year project and report every year to the European Parliament on the progress made.

To learn more about the pilot project and its aims, please check our news post here.

European Parliament’s Committee on Budget (BUDG) meeting. Votes.

 

 

 

New Commission study on fire performance of façades shows continued progress on fire safety

New Commission study on fire performance of façades shows continued progress on fire safety

14 September 2018

On 3 September, the Commission published a study on the development of a European approach to assess the fire performance of facades of buildings. The Modern Building Alliance welcomes these efforts to strengthen fire safety in Europe and is ready to engage further with the Commission and regulators to discuss and clarify identified gaps.

The study, commissioned by DG GROW, aims to provide Member States’ regulators with a harmonised European approach to regulating the fire performance of façade systems. It presents two options:

  • The first option, the so-called “proposed test method”, is a classification methodology based on existing testing standards for fire performance and fire behaviour of external facade systems.
  • The second option, or “alternative method” proposed by the consortium is based on a new testing and classification approach combining two tests.

The Modern Building Alliance sees numerous benefits in developing harmonised EU standards and believes that the “proposed test method” put forward in the study, and preferred by the European Commission services, is most able to deliver quick and impactful results. Firstly, an approach based on existing standards will capitalise on the historical experience of laboratories, regulators and manufacturers and will rely on valuable existing data. This will also enable a faster implementation which is essential for reinforcing fire safety in the EU and protect citizens.

As Member States are planning to review their national regulation, the Modern Building Alliance shares the sense of urgency in ensuring a swift implementation of this methodology. We also encourage the Commission and regulators to organise additional discussions with stakeholders to further clarify some points highlighted in the study, such as the development of a clear definition of facades.

 

ITRE Committee confirms support for increased fire safety in Europe

ITRE Committee confirms support for increased fire safety in Europe

10 July 2018

Today, the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) adopted an amendment for a pilot project on fire safety to be included in the EU’s 2019 budget. This proposal aims to bridge the gap on fire statistics and to pave the way for increased fire safety awareness in Europe. The Modern Building Alliance fully supports this initiative and would like to congratulate the ITRE Committee and all the MEPs that supported it.

“This pilot project is very timely as it would complement the work the EU has started on fire safety through Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP)” said Quentin de Hults, Executive Chair of the Modern Building Alliance. To learn more about the pilot project and its aims, please check our news post here. For further information about the FIEP, please check here.

The pilot project proposal will now be sent to the Budgets Committee of the European Parliament. The Modern Building Alliance and its members invite all MEPs to support this initiative which will strengthen the EU commitment to fire safety and support a breakthrough in fire statistics and prevention.

 

 

 

Members of the European Parliament stand up to advance fire safety in Europe

Members of the European Parliament stand up to advance fire safety in Europe

21 June 2018

Yesterday, a group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) submitted a very promising pilot project proposal on fire safety to the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). This project tabled as an amendment for the EU budget 2019 aims to mend the data gaps on fire statistics and to pave the way for a pan-European fire safety awareness campaign. The Modern Building Alliance fully supports this initiative, which will give the EU and national governments the opportunity to better identify the most effective fire safety measures.

Led by Danish MEP Bendt Bendtsen from the European People’s Party (EPP) and supported by 23 other MEPs across most political groups (from EPP, S&D, ECR, ALDE and the greens), the proposal would fund an EU-wide analysis and assessment of available fire safety statistics and result in two important sets of recommendations.

Firstly, the pilot project would allow to identify possible European actions to support enhanced data collection and streamlining in statistics on fire casualties, fire safety and fire prevention.

“Data on fire casualties and fire safety is widely fragmented across Europe. The pilot project should map and fix the data gaps and pave the way for improved fire safety awareness and fire prevention in Member States” explained Bendt Bendtsen. He added “Thankfully the rate of fire fatalities is dropping in Europe for the past decades. We would like to keep that trend going, and to help our national governments in their fire prevention efforts.” Quentin de Hults, Executive Chair of the Modern Building Alliance agreed: “Fire safety is a joint responsibility but understanding the key risk factors is essential to identify effective actions”. To learn more about fire safety statistics in Europe, check out our dedicated page on this website.

Secondly, the pilot project would also recommend EU-level actions to support fire safety and fire prevention efforts of Member States into the domestic environment, turning into a possible pan-European fire safety awareness campaign. Efforts to prevent development and consequences of fires requires building occupants to understand which safety precautions or emergency actions need to be taken. Targeted awareness campaigns can ensure that all occupants are familiar with the appropriate behaviour to prevent fire and their consequences.

Mike Hagen, Chair of the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA [1]) and professional UK fire officer for over 33 years said, “The European Fire Safety Alliance welcomes the proposal for this project to collect European fire data, which will provide strong evidence of the risk from fire for European citizens and be a powerful force to inform pan-European fire safety efforts.” Chris Addiers, President of FEU, the Federation of EU Fire Officers Associations, added that “the proposal is relevant and timely, as the clear majority of fire-related injuries are preventable through appropriate risk reduction measures.”

The pilot project proposal is also a relevant follow up to the new European Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), just published in the Official Journal of the Union. “The revised buildings directive gives real momentum to the renovation of Europe's buildings, and this will be a golden opportunity to improve fire safety for our European citizens at the same time” said Bendt Bendtsen. Renovation efforts indeed present an added opportunity to further improve fire safety, while this issue remains relevant in a context spanning further than renovations.

The pilot project should also complement and support any initiatives by the newly established Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP) by the European Commission, to which the Modern Building Alliance is also contributing.

The ITRE Committee will vote on 10 July. If approved, the proposal will be sent to the Budgets Committee of the European Parliament. The Modern Building Alliance and its members invite all MEPs to support this amendment and this initiative which will strengthen the EU commitment to fire safety and support a breakthrough in fire statistics and prevention.

 

[1] The European Fire Safety Alliance is a project within the Dutch Burns Foundation to reduce the risk from fire particularly in the home https://www.europeanfiresafetyalliance.org/

Additional reading

Download all amendments here.

Fire safety: what can building renovations bring?

Fire safety: what can building renovations bring?

20 June 2018

After 18 months of legislative process, the amended Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EU 2018/844) has been published in the EU Official Journal. Member States now have up to 20 months to transpose it into their national regulations.

The revised EPBD aims to fully leverage the potential contribution of the building sector to the EU’s long-term energy and climate objectives. It requires Member States to strengthen their long-term national renovation strategies to reach a “highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock” by 2050, an objective that the Modern Building Alliance fully supports.

For the first time, fire safety is mentioned in two paragraphs of the EPBD:

Each Member State may use its long-term renovation strategy to address fire safety and risks related to intense seismic activity affecting energy efficiency renovations and the lifetime of buildings. (new article 2a, paragraph 7)

Member States shall encourage, in relation to buildings undergoing major renovation, high-efficiency alternative systems, in so far as this is technically, functionally and economically feasible, and shall address the issues of healthy indoor climate conditions, fire safety and risks related to intense seismic activity. (article 7 paragraph 5)

This reference to fire safety in the legislation is worth noting as it encourages more attention to be put on the area, along with other risks such as seismic activity.

 

Plans for building renovations with a model house

 

Fire safety must be considered for all buildings during design, construction, renovation and operation

Like all safety aspects, this is covered by national building codes and a full range of other regulations. The EPBD now highlights that the renovation of a building is also an opportunity to enhance fire safety.

It is well known that old buildings have a poor energy performance, but they may also have obsolete gas and electrical installations and fire safety design. Transformations over the time, like changes in space distribution or addition of electrical equipments, may create higher risk situations.

With regard to electrical safety, new features may represent an increased risk and require a revision of the electrical installation. In the European Union, degraded or faulty electrical appliances make up 20 to 30% of all domestic fires. The majority of these are preventable. Simple precautions, like charging electric vehicles or e-bikes below a smoke detector, can make a difference.

To fully deliver on the objectives outlined in the EPBD, renovations will have to comply with the relevant building regulations and the products will have to meet the performance requirements defined by their specific applications. Ensuring the quality and compliance of renovation works with these rules and with producer guidelines is essential, to meet boththe expected level of safety and of energy performance.

When it comes to fire safety, the Modern Building Alliance encourages Member States to consider the following elements when transposing the directive within their own legislation:

  • The quality of the electrical and gas installation and appliances;
  • The presence of smoke detection mechanisms;
  • The quality of escape routes and compartmentation; and
  • The possibility of sprinklers in high-rise/high-risk buildings or for vulnerable occupants.

 

Fire safety should and can be improved beyond renovation strategies

Despite this development in the EPBD, legislators should realise that building features and renovation will not be enough to improve fire safety.

Protecting EU citizens, particularly those who are most vulnerable, against fire risks must be considered beyond renovation strategies alone. Therefore, the Modern Building Alliance supports the idea suggested by the European Copper Institute and the Federation for the Safety of Electricity Users (Fisuel) that fire and electrical safety should be part of the social dimension of EU energy policy, and be addressed together with energy poverty.

The most vulnerable people in our society, such as elderly and low-income households, are also less likely to see their housing renovated. The revised EPBD encourages Member States to particularly address energy poverty within their renovation strategies, which is positive as vulnerable people affected by energy poverty and safety poverty are the same. But we cannot rely solely on energy renovation to reduce their energy bills and improve their fire safety situation.

Fire prevention measures should develop faster than the renovation rate of maximum 2 or 3% per year. More emphasis should be placed on increasing prevention measures via public awareness programmes regarding fire risks, fire safety behaviours and basic fire safety features like smoke detectors. The Modern Building Alliance supports the work initiated by the Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP) on data and best practices which will also help Member States’ efforts in this regard.

As fire safety must be considered beyond renovation of buildings, we also support the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) who is aiming to reduce fire risks at home. As explained by EuroFSA, we also believe that most of the residential fires are preventable and it is often the most vulnerable people that are affected. Significant improvements can be achieved by developing knowledge and raising awareness about this issue.

 

The Modern Building Alliance hopes that Member States will implement the EPBD in a way that grasps Europe’s energy efficiency potential. We also encourage them to work on fire safety improvements beyond renovation strategies to deliver safe and sustainable buildings for all citizens.

Additional reading

Download the directive here.

England: the Hackitt Report reviewing building regulations and fire safety is published

England: the Hackitt Report reviewing building regulations and fire safety is published

17 May 2018

 

The independent review led by Dame Judith Hackitt was commissioned by the British government following the Grenfell Tower fire to make recommendations on the future regulatory system. It has examined building and fire safety regulations and related compliance and enforcement with the focus on multi-occupancy high-rise residential buildings. An interim report was published on 18 December 2017 and the final report was published on 17 May 2018.

The report proposes a significant reassessment of the whole regulatory system covering high-rise and complex buildings, as well as how the system works in practice. It addresses important shortcomings in the current English system of building regulations and fire safety and recommends a new framework. This framework includes a clear model of risk ownership, which is largely outcomes-based (rather than based entirely on prescriptive routes). It also considers buildings as a system, using a risk-based approach and ensuring transparency of information as well as an audit trail.

The Modern Building Alliance welcomes this ambition; the thorough process which led to the recommendations featured in the report can only be supported. Compliance and enforcement of regulations is essential for fire safety and Dame Hackitt showed this has not worked properly in England, where non-compliant products could find their way through the system. The report concentrates on fixing the whole approach, to avoid such a situation in the future. This also provides important input to the EU Fire Information Exchange Platform established by the European Commission.

For high-rise buildings, testing the fire performance of facades is an essential component of the regulatory system. Having already identified that different large-scale testing methods are existing and applied by Member States, the European Commission is currently working on a harmonised test method. Considering facades as systems when specifying and assessing their performance regarding fire spread limitation is essential, regardless of the type of materials used.

 

Read more about fire safety in high- and medium-rise buildings here.

Additional reading

Read key reactions of stakeholders in the UK:

London Fire Brigade

Construction Products Association

Insulation Manufacturers Association

Download the full report here

The revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is fully adopted

The revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is fully adopted

14 May 2018

After the European Parliament on 17 April 2018, the Council adopted the revised directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD) on 14 May 2018.

Following this formal approval of the regulation by the Council, which is the final step in the legislative process, the directive will be published in the Official Journal of the EU, and will enter into force twenty days later. The transposition period for this legislation is twenty months.

Buildings energy performance scale

Read our reaction on the final text following its adoption by the European Parliament here.

Additional reading

Read the press release of the Council here.

Download the revised directive here.