the door blank at the core of a fire door must be manufactured to the highest standards, using consistent production techniques. That’s not going to change either, but hopefully we’ll see fewer sub-standard fire doors in circulation in a year’s time.
Fire door performance
Introduced to the UK market some 20 years ago, today’s fire door blanks are produced to exact specifications on tightly controlled production lines. Human error has effectively been engineered out of the door manufacture process. Not so in India and some other markets, where stile and rail doors are far more commonplace and engineered blanks seen as innovative.
As we heard in Monday’s webinar, provided they’re manufactured to a high standard and are durable enough to withstand daily use – not just for the first few years but throughout their entire service life – fire doorsets and door assemblies should provide the level of protection they’re meant to.
We say ‘should’ rather than ‘will’ because there are lots of other factors, besides the actual door blank, that impact performance.
System for success
As Tuesday’s webinar showed, fire door blanks and cores are only one part of the ‘system of components’ that make up fit-for-purpose fire doorsets and door assemblies. Yes, the door blank is the workhorse but it works in concert with other components, including essential hardware like door closers, locks and hinges, as well as seals, both between the door leaf and frame, and within the lock and hinges.
Again, that’s not going to change but if our industry is to improve fire safety, there needs to be increased awareness of the fact there’s only one way to see how a system of components will perform as a unit. And that’s to test them together, not individually. What’s more, if you vary that system of components in any way, there’s no guarantee the door assembly or doorset will perform to the same level.
Having the right system of components – all manufactured to a high standard – is important. But as Wednesday’s webinar explained, even the best products in the world can fail if they’re not installed and maintained correctly. It’s here we’re likely to see significant differences come FDSW 2021.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire and subsequent Building a Safer Future review, the UK Government is placing more of an emphasis on ongoing maintenance. It’s not hard to see why.
Manufacturing is already tightly controlled thanks to factors like good quality fire door component supply, as well as quality management systems like ISO 9001 and third-party certification, both of which ensure the delivery of consistent quality fire doors. Similarly, when it comes to installation, there’s the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) and other certification schemes, and door installs are signed off by a qualified person. It’s what happens at the next link in the supply chain – ongoing maintenance – that gives greater cause for concern.
Tampering with something as important as a door closer is an obvious example, but all it takes to prejudice the integrity of a fire door is for someone to replace an existing letterplate, door viewer or lock with hardware of a different spec. These ‘illegal interventions’, as we call them, have the potential to completely undermine fire door performance, highlighting the critical need for the regular maintenance of fire doors throughout their life.
This is why the government wants to make landlords – be they a council, housing association or private individual – responsible for ensuring that fire doors continue to remain compliant over time, involving them in the shared responsibility for building safety. Simply signing off fire doors at the initial inspection stage will no longer be good enough. Instead, regular inspections will be required to ensure seals are in place, doors open and shut properly, closing devices are still fitted, and so on.
Cars over a certain age need to have an MOT to ensure they remain roadworthy. Why shouldn’t fire doors be the same!
Because surely that’s the biggest change we all want
passive fire protection measures, like fire-resistance rated walls and floors, fire doors help to slow or stop the spread of fire and smoke between rooms and floors by compartmentalising a building, buying occupants valuable time for evacuation. Fire doors also protect crucial means of escape routes, as well as protecting the firefighters who tackle the blaze.
But fire doors will only do this if they’re specified, manufactured, installed and maintained correctly. Remember the old joke: ‘When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar.’ Well, unfortunately, there are many more answers to the question: ‘When is a fire door not a fire door’? When it’s wedged open, for example. Or specified, manufactured, installed or maintained incorrectly in any one of a hundred different ways.
It’s no laughing matter. Which is why, along with to regulatory compliance, with all the partners in the supply chain involved in the ‘golden thread’ and taking accountability for the delivery of a quality product.
The way ahead
What’s needed is an effective way of ensuring high standards are consistently delivered across the entire fire door supply chain – a means of verifying everything from the quality of the door blanks and cores supplied, and the fabrication of the door, to the installation and ongoing maintenance of the finished doorset or door assembly – improving fire safety and providing much-needed peace of mind.
Complex and wide-ranging though this may be, it’s a solution we’re confident will be delivered before next year’s Fire Door Safety Week. How can we be so sure? Watch this space…
"One of the world’s leading suppliers of quality door blanks, steel door frames, intumescent seals, hardware and more, Halspan revolutionised timber door manufacture with its pre-tested door blanks made from 3-layer particle board. For the industry, having Halspan® at the core of a door has been an assurance of quality and integrity ever since."
"You’ll find doors with Halspan to the core in educational, healthcare, hospitality, airports, industrial, commercial, residential, retail and Government buildings all over the world."
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"From specifiers and regulators, fabricators and installers to insurers and building owners, everyone’s looking for different things from doorsets or door assemblies. Halspan’s industry-leading range of third-party certified high performance door components ticks all the right boxes."