IFE News

22 December 2017

IFE welcomes Dame Judith Hackitt's interim report

The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) welcomes Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report into the Building Regulations and Fire Safety, to which we contributed. Members of the IFE wholeheartedly agree with Dame Judith’s main findings and are preparing to contribute to the next stage of this critical work. As an organisation set up 100 years ago to help further the science of fire safety, we know better than most that freedom of design and choice of materials, today more than ever before, require buildings to be designed, constructed, approved and managed by persons with appropriate understanding of the behaviour of fire, of buildings on fire, and of human behaviour in fires.

We particularly welcome the view expressed by Dame Judith that we should not be planning to introduce prescription to building design, but that one key area of improvement should be that such design freedoms are only permitted to competent professionals. The IFE view professional ethics and competencies to be essential elements of a goal based design framework that delivers effective safety (including fire safety), and those attributes are already demonstrated by diligent members of professional bodies, such as the IFE. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the wider construction sector, the fire and rescue services, Building Control Bodies, and other health and safety professionals, to identify a route to successfully manage the imposition of reasonable requirements for appropriate and demonstrable competencies and ethical practice at all critical stages of the building process, and over its lifetime.

The IFE is also preparing to support further exploration of a means for the fire sector to take ownership of technical standards, and also to provide a mechanism for residents or others affected by fire safety provision to gain assurance and confidence that they are indeed safe, and to provide a route to raise queries or concerns if needed. The independence provided by the IFE as a registered charity, created specifically to help protect people from fire, places it in a unique position to help change culture, maintain the body of knowledge and assure the competence and ethics of its professional members.

The awful tragedy at Grenfell and the subsequent identification of inappropriate construction has given impetus to Dame Judith’s review. It has also removed complacency about the importance of having an effective fire safety system. When the IFE was formed in 1918 the founders would never have imagined that great successes in terms of fire prevention and reducing life loss could be so quickly eclipsed by systemic failure. We can and must learn from high impact industries, both in the UK and around the world, to re-engineer our system to make it fit for purpose.

Peter Wilkinson EngD CEng FIFireE

Chairman, IFE Board of Directors


Paul Grimwood Fifiree   23/12/2017 at 12:22

Design freedoms without prescriptive benchmarks are a dangerous thing. Such an approach must always be validated against some measure of what is acceptable as based on past experiences. This level of standardisation will enable innovation where it is justified, validated through sound research and testing and controlled by those who are fully competent in understanding fire behaviour and it's social impacts. The prescriptive guidance that exists already offers built in design freedoms and it has been shown that to stray too far from, or circumnavigate, these ‘rules’ too broadly without any all round professional review will lead us into dangerous waters again and again. There are many reasons why value engineering is a tool to be carefully measured and controlled by public servants who are not in any position to be easily manipulated for personal gain.

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