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2024: Driving change in the UK’s construction sector

08 January 2024

2024 WILL witness a period of significant change for the construction industry as a whole, with a particularly keen focus placed on fire safety issues (including the provision of passive fire protection). Here, Christophe Bind looks ahead to what’s in store in the New Year.

Long overdue changes aimed at increasing the safety of high-rise residential buildings are finally in place, but the impact of these alterations on an operational level is yet to be fully witnessed and understood.

Already raised as potentially being the end of traditional design and build, the gateway scheme being introduced by the Building Safety Regulator at the Health and Safety Executive means that more detailed specification of products and applications will become increasingly important from an early stage as plans need to stipulate safety provisions.

For passive fire protection, this is an ideal solution. Early specification ensures the right product is installed for the building, cavity barriers and fire stopping are delivered to the correct timeline and waste is minimised. It also allows any issues to be identified long before installation procedures take place.

However, a lack of clarity around central issues in the Building Safety Act 2022 remains, such as the definition of notifiable changes, and at what point changes to specification need to be notified. Having clarity on this matter as soon as possible is imperative for efficient project management and also to ensure consistency in the application of passive fire protection.

Education and awareness

Competence continues to be a concern. As an industry, we need to ensure that life-critical products are manufactured, specified and installed to the highest standards. Along with a laser focus on fire safety, we hope to see education and information prioritised across all sectors involved in the building process.

Within the industry, the spotlight will absolutely be on skills, awareness and competence. Everyone involved in fire protection needs to take responsibility. We’ve already established our own training facility to support the accurate installation of fire stopping and cavity barrier products. We look forward to welcoming more partners across the coming year.

The golden thread will deliver more industry change with a need for comprehensive information to be made readily available throughout the full building lifecycle. This is one of the most important elements of the new legislation, ensuring an attention to detail around making sure the right products are in place and have been installed correctly.

To this end, we fully expect to see more transparency and increased digitalisation to support the ease of access to information.

Demand to remain high

With the implementation of the gateway scheme, there’s the possibility that we could see delays to some projects, but demand for fire stopping and cavity barriers is expected to remain high, both from a regulatory point of view and from raised awareness, but also due to the requirement for recladding to make existing buildings safe.

While conditions have been challenging in the construction industry, there are signs of an improvement in 2024, which will, in turn, witness an upturn for passive fire protection.

As stated, the coming year will be a time of change. Change that we need to see and change that’s long overdue.

Buildings must always be fashioned with safety in mind.

Christophe Bind is Country Manager at FSi Promat (www.fsiltd.com)