Specifying fire safety technologies for the future, today

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Opinion

  Posted by: electime      8th February 2021

The release of the Draft Building Safety Bill aims to encourage and assist the industry in achieving a new generation of competence, with the acquisition and ongoing assessment of building information playing an integral role in achieving these goals. Here James King, Connected Homes Director at FireAngel, explores how IoT and AI technologies are enabling social housing providers to obtain digital data that offers full transparency, which can be utilised to create actionable insights regarding every property across an entire portfolio.

As the government’s legislative response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of the building industry and its practices following the Grenfell Tower fire, the Draft Building Safety Bill represents and proposes a significant change in approach, which places resident safety and building suitability at the centre of all design, construction and maintenance processes.

In line with the learnings of the Hackitt Report, the draft Bill demonstrates the importance of building information that is transparent and accessible by all relevant individuals throughout the entire lifecycle of the building, whether that may be from the perspective of the provider, or their residents.

It also expresses the importance for this ‘Golden thread’ of data to be continuously updated and reviewed to create a digital record that generates a visible audit trail of information, which can be actioned upon at any time to ensure the continued compliance and safety of the building.

As the very principles of the Draft Building Safety Bill and the cultural changes they promote are founded upon this ability to obtain accurate intelligence, which can be constantly evaluated to drive a successful cultural step change in approach, social housing providers should use this as the starting point when evaluating their current Fire Safety Policies.

A proactive approach to safety

Having to adopt a completely alternative approach to their fire safety practices, one that places the ability to capture necessary building information at its very core, may initially present itself to many housing providers as a significant project that will require substantial expenditure and internal resources to successfully implement throughout their entire housing portfolio.

However, by deciding to undertake this work in order to follow the values outlined within the draft Bill, social housing providers can also be presented with the opportunity to cost-effectively future proof their complete housing stock, whilst simultaneously streamlining their approach to asset and audit management.

By implementing systems that comply to a Category LD1 Specification and facilitate the wireless transmission of building information, social housing providers can achieve long term reductions in overheads, as the digital data supports the stratification of risk, identifying any changes in building or resident behaviour, as and when they occur. As a result, this enables resources and costs to be applied in the most proficient way.

It also ensures each property / tenant receives the highest possible level of protection available, further supporting long term cost savings, as providers are successfully mitigating against any potential changes in legislation, because their properties are already compliant to the highest possible standard.

Connected technologies, such as devices that are Smart RF compatible, are one of the most cost-efficient and effective methods currently available to social housing providers looking to upgrade their fire safety provisions, in line with the recommendations promoted throughout the Hackitt Report and Draft Building Safety Bill.

Appreciating the importance of information

Connected systems that utilise Smart RF technology can facilitate the wireless interlinking of up to 50  mains-powered and battery powered smoke, heat and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms onto a secure private network, simply by adding a Smart RF Radio Module into each alarm.

This is particularly useful for projects where hardwiring isn’t feasible, as the network can be quickly extended wirelessly, whilst also offering the opportunity for additional safety products to be added to the system at a later date. The flexible nature of the technology also enables providers to tailor the fire safety provision to meet their unique requirements, offering further cost saving benefits.

The wireless interlinking of these alarms not only achieves the highest level of protection available by adhering to a Category LD1 Specification, it also supports remote real time monitoring by communicating vital information from each device in every property.

This can be achieved through the activation of a Connected cloud-based gateway, which wirelessly sends data from every alarm to designated mobile or smart devices, instantly notifying relevant individuals if an alarm has sounded, sending optional real time updates regarding its status.

The transmission of this data is continuously updated to deliver vital information regarding each alarm, including diagnostics, device history, replacement dates and network health. This provides all relevant individuals with a comprehensive overview of the potential fire risk each property currently presents, allowing any changes in risk to be immediately analysed and acted upon.

Whether viewed by the Accountable Person for higher-risk buildings, the Building Safety Manager or Operations Manager, access to this regularly updated information is essential to enabling these individuals to adequately fulfil the day-to-day management of the fire and structural safety of the building – a key element of the draft Bill.

In line with the Hackitt Report, the draft Bill is also committed to placing residents at the epicentre of this regime, generating a new era of accountability that will strengthen provider and resident communications. Smart RF compatible systems, such as this, support proactive resident engagement as they can gain access to key information regarding their property throughout its entire lifecycle. This helps to strengthen the relationship between provider and resident, as individuals have direct access to the status of each alarm and are aware of when key activities such as testing, reviews or inspections are due.

As the Bill looks to achieve a new standard for building safety throughout the social housing sector, providers can take a proactive approach to the level of protection they provide residents through the provision of Connected technologies that can facilitate the continuous communication of essential building data, in addition to successfully future proofing an entire housing portfolio for years to come.

For more information on how FireAngel can tailor a connected fire and CO safety solution for maximum protection your housing portfolio please visit www.fireangel.co.uk/connect or contact your local specification manager.