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How new legislation is going to help the fire safety industry

James King

James King

Connected Homes Director at FireAngel
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With a host of new legislation in place, big changes are coming to the fire safety industry. Here James King, connected homes director at FireAngel, explores what opportunities these changes present for the electrical sector. He will also explain how the use of IoT and AI technologies to create adaptable networks that can be continuously upgraded will help ensure compliance, as well as meet the needs of each individual resident. 

The release of the Draft Building Safety Bill and the recent formation of the National Construction Products Regulator have presented significant modifications to industry competence, not only through the proposal of key updates to existing building safety legislation, but through a substantial shift in approach that places resident safety and building suitability at the centre of all design, construction and maintenance processes.

As the government’s legislative response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of the building industry and its actions following the Grenfell Tower fire, the draft bill contains provisions intended to secure the safety of all individuals by achieving a definitive and consistent improvement in the standard of building.

In order for the sector to adopt this significant shift in methodology, the draft bill places building information that is transparent and accessible throughout the entire lifecycle of the building as its central mechanism.

The creation and distribution of this data is set to generate a new era of accountability for the industry by ensuring all construction professionals consider the safety of individuals throughout every stage of their work, and that any potential risks have, and continue to be, successfully managed.

For electrical contractors and engineers supporting clients in the social housing sector, there is an opportunity to put these recommendations into practice, without waiting for legal changes to come into force. By taking an alternative approach, not only with regard to the types of technologies installed, but the deciding factors when procuring and installing these solutions, professionals can confidently ensure ongoing building suitability and safety.

Taking the digital route

Connected smoke, heat and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms that facilitate the wireless transmission of data are providing electrical contractors with a cost-effective and efficient method of obtaining and managing building information across an entire housing portfolio.

As data from every device in every room throughout each property can be communicated in real time to a cloud-based gateway, they can obtain a desktop overview of the current status of every property, combined with each resident’s individual level of risk.

By utilising Smart RF technology, multiple mains-powered and battery-powered devices can be wirelessly interlinked onto a secure private network 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 extended wirelessly, whilst also offering the opportunity for additional safety products to be added to the system at a later date.

Through the activation of a connected cloud-based gateway, data regarding the status of every device can be wirelessly transmitted, creating a continuous stream of building information, including diagnostics, device history, replacement dates and network health.

This remote real-time monitoring provides a comprehensive overview of the potential fire risk each property currently presents, allowing any changes to be immediately analysed and acted upon.  

The flexible nature of the technology also enables contractors to tailor the fire safety provision to successfully meet unique requirements, such as the installation of additional devices. This ensures the principles of the draft bill are followed, as the needs of each individual and the overall quality of build is consistently managed and met.

Whilst offering increased reactive capabilities, the digital data also supports improved preventative processes, as engineers and maintenance teams can run silent testing of every alarm across an entire network remotely. All of this information is then logged digitally, providing a trail of due diligence that can be instantly referred to, whenever required.

Intelligent installation

As these technologies support the long-term capture and distribution of key information to document constant compliance and ensure resident safety, they also support electrical professionals in completely revolutionising the installation and commissioning stages.

Engineers can now support a single thread of data, obtained in a single visit, by utilising these technologies to document and evidence the completion of all necessary phases. This is due to the system’s ability to instantly log all information via the wireless network.

For example, when installing each device in every room, the contractor validates the install by taking a photograph of each completed installation. These images are then wirelessly uploaded onto the centralised platform to generate immediate sign off, subsequently producing a certification of fire legislative compliance, in accordance with BS 5839-6.

This intelligent process of confirmation eradicates any requirement for paper-based data capture, ensuring each installation has been adequately assessed for competence and validated to ensure the maximum levels of detection have been achieved, completely revolutionising approaches to documentation and verification.

By also installing devices that already adhere to a Category LD1 Specification, rather than waiting for legislative updates to be enforced, professionals can ensure duty of care is successfully fulfilled, whilst simultaneously futureproofing an entire housing portfolio. This long-term approach to building safety and suitability not only reflects the very principles outlined within the draft bill, but supports a cost-effective and efficient methodology regarding long-term fire safety.

As the draft bill aims to improve culture, competence and compliance throughout the industry, electrical professionals have the opportunity to completely transform the expectations of upcoming installations by utilising IoT and AI technologies to pioneer a new approach to installation and management that achieves compliance, ensuring resident safety and ultimately futureproofing a building for its entire lifecycle.

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