Future proofing the Euroclass System to build a fire safe Europe

Feb 12, 2016 | Facades, News

(Published by Brandposten)

What is at stake with the European classification for construction product’s reaction to fire performance, what is Guidance Paper G, and what can the EU do to guarantee buildings fire safety?

Birgitte Messerschmidt, Co-Chair of Fire Safe Europe’s Task Forces, writes about this on Brandposten.

Fire testing materials to save lives

Safety in case of fire is not only an essential requirement in the European Construction Products Regulation (CPR), but also one of the cornerstones of local building regulations across Europe. Getting occupants out of a building safely in case of a fire is the ultimate goal. To achieve this goal, it is important that the fire classification of a construction product is linked to a risk and is not just a random ranking.

This is why the European fire regulators back in the mid-nineties decided that construction products should be evaluated based on their tendency to cause flashover if exposed to a fire in the corner of a small room.”

The European testing and classification system for construction product’s reaction to fire performance is articulated in Euroclasses. Its principles were described in detail in a paper from the European Commission called Guidance Paper G, which also showed what to do with families of construction products  requiring different types of tests, such as cables and pipe insulation.

Loosing the link to actual risk: to the rescue of Guidance paper G

“When the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) replaced the Construction Products Directive (CPD) in 2013, all supporting documents to the CPD, such as Guidance Paper G, lost their validity. Consequently the principles behind the Euroclass system are at risk of being forgotten and the possibility to further develop the system to be able to handle modern construction products could be lost. With new trends such as energy efficiency, sustainability and green buildings driving the development of new construction products, it is imperative that these new types of products obtain a classification that is linked to an actual risk.”

To draw attention to this critical issue, Fire Safe Europe and MEP Catherine Stihler hosted an event at the European Parliament on November 2015, titled: “Better regulation for fire safety: does the Construction Products Regulation deliver?”. The event was characterised by a lively discussion among Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, CEN, EOTA, Group of Notified Bodies, fire scientists and a broad range of industries, concluding with a general agreement that “keeping the link to risk is key to the continued success of the Euroclass system.”

What concrete steps can the EU take to ensure fire safety in buildings?

“Having fire test methods that reflect the actual fire behaviour of construction products is key to have safety in case of fire. This is why Fire Safe Europe calls on the European Commission to urgently:

  • Incorporate the principles of Guidance Paper G in the CPR
  • Mandate the standards to include both smoke opacity and toxicity by introducing smoke hazard class
  • Incorporate a fitness check of standards to ensure they are applicable to all construction products on the market”.