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Sat September 18 2021

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Grenfell Fire prompts global response

12 Jul 18 Professional bodies from across the UK construction industry have joined forces with more than 30 organisations from around the world to develop international standards to address fire safety in buildings.

First meeting of the IFSS Coalition at the UN in Geneva this week
First meeting of the IFSS Coalition at the UN in Geneva this week

The International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition was launched at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland this week in response to issues raised by the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 71 people.

The coalition 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. The standards aim to set and reinforce the best practice professionals should adhere to ensure building safety in the event of a fire.

UK representation includes the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The goal is to set down global principles that will inform the design, construction, and management of buildings to address the risks associated with fire safety.

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Differences in materials testing and certification, national building regulations or codes, and standards on how to manage buildings in use, particularly higher risk buildings, gives rise to confusion, uncertainty and risk to the public, it is said.

The IFSS Coalition is chaired by Gary Strong, RICS global building standards director. He 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, 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 harmonised 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 in the public interest.” 

Once the high-level standards are developed, the IFSS Coalition plans to 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 organisation.

First priority for the IFSS Coalition is forming 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.

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