Designers and specifiers need to be made more aware of the new European fire regulations coming into force in the next two years, according to the technical director at the Association for Specialist Fire Protection.
Bill Parlor said many designers, architects and consultants were not aware of the changes, which will mean products must comply with far more demanding test standards being introduced under the Construction Product Regulations.
He said: “There is a lack of awareness within the market. At the moment in the UK we have minimal fire requirements for ducting systems but in the future we will have 16 new European tests coming in for product standards.
“We have been asking the Government for discussions about how they will be implementing this because, unless people have been involved in the standards procedures, it is very unlikely they will be aware of the scale of the issues that are coming their way.
“We will be required to use European standards from 2011 and that is not a long time to make sure everyone has the data together.
“Testing will be more effective so that it is acceptable across European borders. That means it is likely to be more expensive and the people with the smallest budgets will be affected most.
“It will be up to them whether they become victims or not.”
Brian James, technical director at Harlow-based firm Fire Protection, said: “There does seem to be a remarkable amount of ignorance in terms of the European directive.
“We do need to publicise the use of the European standards as certainly the major manufacturers are all testing to the new standards.”
Mr James is a member of the HVCA technical committee and a member of the European Committee for Standardisation looking at harmonising standards. His company is investing £1.5 million in preparing for the new regulations, which come into force in July 2011.
Tests, which must be verified by recognised bodies such as Warrington Fire Research and the Building Research Establishment, cover a whole range of factors such as pressure differentials and leakage.
He said: “European testing is far more onerous. We have done 12 tests so far and our full programme is 36 tests. Each test costs £30,000.
“Under previous British requirements you did one test and then did assessments for everything else.
“Under European rules and also under American, we have to test everything we want to produce, which is safer, but rather expensive.”
One positive side effect of the push for higher standards is that there is now the possibility of the emergence of a single international standard.
Mr James said: “We are trying to harmonise standards and we are beginning to achieve this in Europe and America. The ultimate aim is to have one standard.”
He predicted there would be consequences. He said: “The number of companies in this field will probably be reduced to three or four from about a dozen at the moment.”