by Brianna Crandall — July 30, 2018 — In light of such events as the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 [see FMLink Special Report], more than 30 organizations from around the world have joined together to develop landmark industry standards to address fire safety in buildings, including the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the International Code Council (ICC), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
The group, known as the International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition, was launched at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland this week, according to announcements from RICS and UNECE. The coalition consists of local and international professional bodies and standard-setting organizations committed to developing and supporting a shared set of standards for fire safety in buildings.
The standards aim to set and reinforce the minimum requirements professionals should adhere to in order to ensure building safety in the event of a fire.
As the property market has become increasingly international with investments flowing across national borders, the sector still lacks a consistent set of high level global standards that will inform the design, construction, and management of buildings to address the risks associated with fire safety.
Differences in materials testing and certification, national building regulations or codes, and standards on how to manage buildings in use, particularly higher risk buildings, means there is confusion, uncertainty and risk to the public, points out RICS.
Gary Strong, the RICS global building standards director, cites the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 as a recent example that demonstrates the need for a coherent global approach to fire safety.
As the RICS representative to, and chair of, the IFSS Coalition, he says that the Grenfell fire — the worst in the UK for almost a century that claimed 72 lives — not only focused attention on building and fire safety in the United Kingdom but also exposed global inadequacies in how fire safety standards are set.
Director Strong remarked:
The Grenfell Tower fire focused the world’s attention on how many buildings are threatened with the prospect of failing fire safety standards. All over the world we see the need for more high-rise structures, some residential, some commercial and some mixed-use buildings, particularly in cities. Our concern is not with the height of these buildings but with the risks they pose in the absence of a coherent and harmonized approach to setting global standards in fire safety. The effort by the IFSS Coalition aims to address this concern and bring together the design, construction and management aspects of ensuring fire safety of building assets.
RICS and UNECE list the members of the Coalition so far as:
- ACAI – Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors
- AEEBC – The Association of European Experts in Building and Construction
- API – Australian Property Institute
- APS – Association for Project Safety
- BCA – Building Control Alliance
- BIFM – British Institute of Facilities Management
- CABE – Chartered Association of Building Engineers
- CASLE – Commonwealth Association of Surveying & Land Economy
- CEBC – Consortium of European Building Control bodies
- CIAT – Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists
- CIBSE – Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
- CIOB – Chartered Institute of Building
- CTBUH – Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
- Engineers Australia
- FIG – Federation International de Geometre, an international umbrella body of surveying professional bodies globally
- ICC – International Code Council
- IFE – Institution of Fire Engineers
- LABC – Local Authority Building Control
- NHBC – National House Building Council
- RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects
- RICS – Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
- SFPE – Society of Fire Protection Engineers
- SGSA – Sports Ground Safety Authority
- SIBL – Singapore Institute of Building Ltd
- The World Bank
- UNECE – United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Once the high-level standards are developed, the IFSS Coalition will work with professionals around the world to deliver the standards locally. The standards will be owned by the IFSS Coalition and not by any one organization, notes RICS.
As its first order of business, the IFSS Coalition will set up a Standards Setting Committee that will draw on a group of international technical fire experts to develop and write the high-level standards to ensure they are fit for purpose across global markets.
For more information, see the International Fire Safety Standards page on the RICS website.