Written evidence submitted by the Insulation Manufacturers Association [BSB 259]
IMA is the Trade Association that represents both the polyisocyanurate (PIR) and polyurethane (PUR) insulation industry in the UK. Its members manufacture rigid insulation that provides circa 40 per cent of the total thermal insulation market into the UK. IMA's membership comprises all of the major companies in the industry, including manufacturers of finished PIR and PUR insulation products, as well as suppliers of raw materials and associated services.
IMA represents the industry's views across all government and industry stakeholders and decision makers and promotes a positive and dynamic business environment for the PIR and PUR insulation industry in the UK.
Building safety is of paramount importance in any advanced and civilised society, so when a tragedy such as the Grenfell Tower fire occurs, it is necessary to examine and identify the causes as to how and why the tragedy happened, correct or eradicate failings and weaknesses that led to the event and ensure they cannot and will not be repeated in the future.
It is therefore quite correct for the government to investigate ways in which any failings can be completely eradicated from construction through the introduction of its Building Safety Bill, to protect people and buildings and re-establish confidence both in the process and provision of buildings, in the products used and in the methods adopted for construction.
IMA supports the work and recommendations from the Hackitt Review, which if implemented should improve the way construction is undertaken, by identifying and allocating responsibility, strengthening and enforcing rules and regulations and instilling greater confidence in the clarity and veracity of construction elements and products. But this will require all parties involved, from legislators to contractors, suppliers, installers, inspectors, financiers and building owners and occupiers, to better understand the relationship between all aspects of a construction (building).
Buildings by their very nature are complex and involve a wide range of products and systems working together to achieve a range of performance targets. A building can only be deemed successful if it is able to achieve all its targets, which includes safety, but also functionality, energy efficiency, fire performance, air quality, comfort, affordability etc. It is therefore important that the Building Safety Bill, whilst trying to achieve one target, does not create unintended consequences that causes the building to fail in other areas. There is no reason why this should be the case as these performance criteria are not mutually exclusive, but the government, through introducing this Bill needs to be sure it understand the whole picture as well as long-term objectives, such as zero carbon, if it is not to become a blockage to good construction and future innovation.
The draft Bill is considerable in its length and covers a wide range of issues. For the purpose of this response IMA is only commenting on Schedule 8, section 110 – Construction Products Regulations, as it is this section that is of greatest interest to us and for which we consider ourselves qualified to comment.
In the Call for evidence the Committee has highlighted a number of questions that you wish responders to address. We note these and will, where applicable provide answers within our narrative, which is divided broadly into three main subject areas.
Products and systems
The bill as it is presented primarily covers individual products and differentiates between those that are covered by harmonised standards and those that are not. It states that a harmonised standard, will become a designated standard under this proposed legislation and clarifies that any product categorised as a designated standard will not be included on the safety critical list. Guidance note 965 states “This list will not include products subject to a designated standard or to a UK technical assessment”. As all products produced by IMA members (PIR insulation), are covered under the harmonised standard EN 13165, there will be no need for them to be included on the safety critical list, which is correct.
However, consideration should be given to the subsequent use of the products. In our own sector a PIR insulation board has a number of end-use applications, for example as roof insulation (flat, pitched. external), floor insulation and as wall insulation (cavity, internal and external).
The correct application or installation of the product is reliant upon other construction products, which when combined together comprise a complete and recognised system. Invariably this complete system has been tested to show how it performs overall and has achieved third party accreditation as being suitable and fit for purpose in the relevant application. Yet, it is not unusual that some of the individual components or products that together make up the system, may not have harmonised standards or ETAs.
The Bill is unclear how these certificated systems will fit into this regulatory regime and could lead to individual products, essential for good construction being included unnecessarily on the safety critical list.
Construction relies heavily on systems in many ways, so to apply the categorisation at a product level will be misleading and is likely to lead to detrimental results. This is particularly true for flat roof applications and the increasing use of off-site building systems and modular buildings.
We would urge further examination of this specific area and encourage changes that will allow the robust system testing which already exists to be included along-side designated standards. We also draw attention to the impact this could have on new and innovative products coming into the market place. Innovation is essential in developing new ideas to meet future targets and it would be highly detrimental if the Bill were to act as a deterrent in any way and stop better solution being adopted.
IMA would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with MHCLG to try to find a positive and satisfactory way forward, which will be beneficial to the construction of high quality, high performing and safe buildings.
Compliance and enforcement
No matter how thorough any legislation is in categorising products and systems, setting standards, providing test data, specifying usage and application and instructing installation requirements, all of this will only be as good as the compliance and enforcement regime used to inspect and police behaviour.
We already know of examples where non-compliant solutions have been installed in buildings and one can only speculate as to how this was able to happen, not just on the odd occasion but seemingly quite extensively. Without the resources coupled to the necessary authority, this unfortunate state of affairs will be hard pushed to correct. An extensive and uncompromising inspection and enforcement regime must go hand in hand with any objective to improve building safety.
Many aspects of a building are not accessible or visible once the building has been constructed and handed over. Therefore, any process of inspection, if it is to have value, accuracy and trustworthiness must be contiguous with the construction process and be backed up with an enforcement regime that has the authority to demand and deliver compliance, to the point of halting construction or stopping hand over to building occupants and users, until compliance is achieved.
The products manufactured by IMA members are highly sophisticated highly engineered construction products that bring huge benefits to the energy performance of buildings. They are an essential component of our buildings in the journey towards net zero carbon 2050 and knowing that they have been installed correctly as part of recognised compliant systems, alongside all products, approved and signed-off by a designated responsible person will go some way towards regaining confidence in the building, the process and the future world of construction in the UK.
However, in the modern world of construction each building will have a large number of complex products and systems that must be installed correctly and in the right sequence to achieve compliance (a product may be instated correctly but its performance could be compromised by subsequent activity that cuts, punctures or drills into it to run pipes, services or similar processes).
The proposal in the Bill for the route to ensure compliance and enforcement is to be via local trading standards teams. Currently in England alone there are 343 local authorities, each of which will be required to fulfil this onerous requirement, therefore we have strong concerns that there will not be enough capacity or knowledge within those trading standards teams to be able to deal with the broad spectrum of issues that could arise and there will be a desperate need for each of those local authorities to dramatically enhance and upskill their trading standards teams. Has the potential impact of this, both in a human resource and a financial capacity been sufficiently understood and addressed in the drafting of this Bill and what are the consequences of trying to implement these requirements once the Bill is introduced?
If done correctly there is also a great opportunity to improve the traceability of all products and systems that make up a building and maintain a database of information in a building passport. This document would be able to identify and log any changes or alterations, performance criteria and other relevant information for the lifetime of the building, enhancing its safety and providing occupants and owners with essential knowledge that the building is and does what it claims.
Testing capacity and veracity
The British government has recognised the crucial role that the construction sector has in the future health of the UK’s economy as well as its vital role in helping meet the 2050 net zero carbon targets. At the same time the Building Safety Bill will bring in new and challenging demands that will require an improvement of standards and processes that ensures all buildings meet higher performance criteria, greater accountability and robust and verifiable data.
Confidence to achieve these new requirements will come from knowing that products and systems have been tested to recognised standards, third party accreditation and recognised certification and that the verification of achieving the necessary documentation is timely and accurate.
Unfortunately, the capacity for testing construction products with accredited laboratories in the UK is already stretched, therefore before introducing more testing regimes the government will need to be sure that testing capability is ramped up to be able to cope with the amount of additional testing that is likely to be needed, so that they can be assured that the outcomes of the bill are met and delays in the supply of essential construction materials does not create a major problem for the industry in carrying out its normal activity.
How the construction industry can meet all its objectives (both now and in the future), including safety, fire performance and particularly the commitment to net zero carbon by 2050, coupled to the financial implications of doing so, will require huge commitment and investment both from government and industry, so that the necessary strengthening of testing, standardisation and compliance regimes bring about the desired outcomes that this draft Building Safety Bill proposes and the wider economy and society demands.