Written evidence submitted by the Phenolic Foam Manufacturers' Association (PFMA) [BSB 333]



The Phenolic Foam Manufacturers Association (PFMA) is the UK subsidiary of the European Phenolic Foam Association (EPFA) and represents the manufacturers of phenolic foam both in the UK and beyond. Phenolic foam is widely used as rigid insulation for both building fabric and building services, primarily because of its exceptional thermal performance and excellent reaction to fire properties, including low some generation. The PFMA represents the industry’s views across all government decision-makers and industry stakeholders and seeks to ensure that the perspectives of the phenolic foam industry are presented in a balanced and constructive fashion. PFMA is therefore pleased to be able to respond to this request for comments.


The PFMA is broadly supportive of the Draft Building Safety Bill and it’s goals, especially concerning competence from professionals in the built environment, accountability for responsible persons, the sharing / storing of building information and the creation of enhanced regulation for dealing with construction products not covered by designated standards. However, the Association also has some concerns about certain aspects of the approach. These relate to the following:

Scope of the Bill

Before moving onto our comments on Compliance, Enforcement and the various aspects of Schedule 8, the Association would wish to question whether the Bill has established an appropriate scope for the new regulatory system. The Draft Safety Bill sets out requirements for “higher-risk buildings” which are defined based on specific occupancy and height conditions. We note that Dame Judith Hackitt’s Report identifies buildings of over 10 storeys in height as having the highest risk and states in paragraph 1.3 that “the likelihood of fire is greater in purpose-built blocks of flats of 10 storeys or more than in those with fewer storeys and, particularly after the fire at Grenfell Tower, the rate of fatalities is also greater in such buildings”.  The Association therefore concludes that the regime should apply to buildings over 10 storeys rather than 18m.

This view is further supported by Dame Judith’s finding in Appendix C of her Report that “there is a higher rate of fire-related fatalities in high-rise purpose-built residential accommodation of 10 storeys or more with around three times as many fatalities as compared with purpose-built flats below 10 storeys. There is little difference between the rate of fire-related fatalities in purpose-built blocks of flats that have one to three storeys and those with four to nine storeys.”

The Association would therefore respectfully suggest that the conclusions of the Hackitt report should be more strictly adopted and that any deviation should be more fully justified.

Compliance and Enforcement

The Building Safety Bill is seeking to achieve an ambitious goal in categorising products (and/or systems?) setting standards, providing test data, specifying usage and application and addressing installation requirements, all of which are necessary to achieve the overall objectives of the Bill. However, this will only ever be as good as the compliance and enforcement regime used to inspect and police supply-chain behaviour and adherence.


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 proposal in the Bill of the route for ensuring compliance and enforcement is to implement 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 major 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. Under current circumstances, we do not think that there will be sufficient resources to make this happen.


If the requirements of the Bill were implemented 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 furnishing occupants and owners with essential knowledge that the building is and does what it claims. However, any failure to impress on the sector the need for strict adherence would mean that the opportunity was lost.


Schedule 8

The Association was pleased to be able to attend the MHCLG presentation hosted by the Construction Products Association (CPA) on 2nd September 2020. At that meeting, it was proposed that there might be an opportunity to follow-up with MHCLG with a more focused discussion on various aspects of Schedule 8. PFMA would like, at the outset, to confirm its interest in being included in any such meeting. 

Phenolic foams are well covered under European harmonised standards with both EN 13166 and EN 14314 being relevant hENs to the applications previously described and thereby qualifying as Designated Standards. From this perspective, we understand from Guidance note 965 thatThis list will not include products subject to a designated standard or to a UK technical assessment”. However, during the discussion that took place with MHCLG during the CPA session, there was some suggestion that the hENs might go through a further review process over time to align with the definition of Safety Critical Products. However, the Association feels that this is mixing two separate elements. A product can only be termed ‘safety critical’ on the basis of its application and a single product may have more than one application. Therefore, it could be safety-critical in one scenario but not so in another. It is not clear how this situation would be handled in the process seemingly envisaged by MHCLG and this is one of the aspects that would need further discussion at a follow-up meeting. Furthermore, if the Safety-Critical List is based around product families rather than individual products from specific manufacturers, the situation may become even more complex. A product family could be fairly generic in description and as some product families have a number of different applications, it may be more appropriate to give this aspect of the new regulations a level of ability to adapt and interpret different building materials and their intended use.

Extending the concern about the importance of the linkage between products their intended use, many products are used as part of more sophisticated systems or assemblies which, in turn, influence their behaviour/ performance in a building. This can be specifically the case when it comes to fire safety. It is quite foreseeable to have an assembly of apparently safe products be ultimately unsafe as an assembly because of the method of assembly and the potential compromises necessary. Whereas, there could be assemblies of less intrinsically ‘safe’ materials that are better performing from a safety perspective as an assembly because of the assembly’s design features. PFMA therefore strongly believes that the Safety-Critical List needs to be focused around building elements which are defined by their function and to which the product hENs are an input.

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As noted above, the PFMA remains available for further discussions with MHCLG on the issues raised in this response and would specifically like to be involved in any subsequent meetings that are called with stake-holders. Meanwhile, if there are any immediate questions on this submission, please contact the under-signed.



September 2020