IFE, DLUHC and RICS host successful conference exploring PAS 9980
02 August 2022
EXPLORING PAS 9980 was the topic of a sell-out gathering organised for fire safety professionals to increase their understanding and share knowledge of this core document. Organised collaboratively between the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the event featured input from several experts operating within the fire safety sector.
Dame Judith Hackitt opened the conference by explaining the motivations behind PAS 9980 and how it will assist in delivering a more risk proportionate approach towards life safety issues. There was then a session led by Steve Daws and Neal Butterworth who were part of the standard's authoring team. They provided insights into its development.
This session reiterated the fact that PAS 9980 provides confidence to competent assessors that they are working within a framework and gives legitimacy to them acting proportionately. It also highlighted that training on the use of PAS 9980 may well develop as the standard is used more often and lessons are duly learned.
The remainder of the day featured Case Studies from a range of industry specialists who shared real-world applications of PAS 9980. The key message echoed throughout focused on PAS 9980 helping to move away from a simplistic view that combustible cladding equals high risk which equals a need for replacement and removal of material. Instead, assessors should be looking at systems as a whole, weighing up different factors and taking a proportionate view.
Panellists were also clear that not all buildings will need a fire risk appraisal of the external wall where the latter system is inherently or demonstrably low risk, while some buildings may only need a basic assessment.
Good deal of discussion
The event fostered a lot of discussion with fire engineer representatives commenting that reports in line with PAS 9980 methodology may vary in length and detail depending on circumstances, and that there are no plans for a pro forma.
Discussions confirmed that, crucially, reports must be clear for clients (ie ‘Responsible Persons’) to understand the risks so a decision on actions can be made accordingly. This may include suggestions of alternative fire mitigation actions that could be taken to make the building safer that are not needed immediately to make the risk tolerable.
Peter Wilkinson, technical director at the IFE, stated: “We were delighted to work on this event with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. PAS 9980 proved to be an incredibly popular topic, with the event selling out in no time at all. The standard gives more clarity and consistency to how the rules should be applied and a clear framework within which professionals can operate with more confidence, and it was great to explore this in more detail at the event and hear first-hand experience of using it from sector experts.”
Gary Strong from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors added: “We welcome the publication of PAS 9980 and the consistent methodology that it delivers. Over the next two years, time will tell in terms of it gaining adoption in the market. I do hope it develops naturally into a full British Standard. In the meantime, sharing experiences and knowledge in its application is essential.”
The future of PAS 9980 was an area of discussion on the day. As a Publicly Available Specification rather than a British Standard, it will need to be reviewed after two years. At this stage, revisions could be made or a decision might be taken to try to develop it into a British Standard.
The IFE, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will continue to monitor the use and development of this document.