More than 40 organisations from around the world have appointed fire safety experts tasked with developing landmark industry standards to address fire safety in buildings in the public interest. The group, known as the International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition, was launched at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Agreement has been reached to appoint 22 experts who applied to join the Coalition’s Standards Setting Committee. The IFSS consists of local and international professional bodies and standard-setting organisations committed to developing and supporting a shared set of standards for fire safety in buildings in the public interest. The standards aim to set and reinforce Best Practice that 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 principles 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 of Practice and standards on how to manage buildings in use, particularly higher risk buildings, mean that there’s confusion, uncertainty and risk to the public.
Gary Strong, global building standards director at the RICS, cites the Grenfell Tower fire in June last year as one of many examples which demonstrate the need for a consistent global approach towards fire safety. As the RICS representative to (and chair of) the IFSS Coalition, Strong believes that the Grenfell Tower fire – the worst in the UK for over a century and one that claimed 72 lives – not only focused attention on building and fire safety in the UK, but also exposed global inadequacies in terms of how fire safety standards are set around the world.
Strong said: “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, and particularly so with the increased urbanisation in cities. Our concern is not with the height of these buildings, but rather with the risks they pose in the absence of a coherent and harmonised approach towards 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 the fire safety of building assets in the public interest.”
Once the high-level standards are developed, the IFSS Coalition will work with professionals around the world to deliver the standards on a local basis. The standards will be owned by the IFSS Coalition and not by any one organisation. As it’s first order of business the IFSS Coalition has set up a Standards Setting Committee that draws on a group of international technical fire experts to develop and write the high-level standards necessary to ensure they’re fit for purpose across global markets.