October Guest Article by Gary Strong, Chair of the International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition.
Up to 70% of the world’s wealth is in built environment assets. But despite rapid globalisation, with investment flowing across borders, money pouring into built assets and increasing numbers of different professionals operating across the world, the industry currently lacks a globally consistent set of high-level principles for design, construction and management of buildings for fire safety.
Differences in materials testing and certification, national building regulations or codes and guidance on managing buildings in use around the world, particularly higher-risk premises, mean that there is confusion, uncertainty and risk to the public. Multiple differing standards mean that there is no single authoritative agreed way to work. For the first time at a global collaborative level, International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) will bring greater consistency by setting minimum levels of fire safety and professionalism across the world and ensure the demand for qualified professionals is high.
In the context of the IFSS Coalition’s work, an international standard is something that is established and agreed at a global level and implemented locally. The IFSS themselves will be owned by the coalition and not by any single organisation, published for free and be freely available. Member bodies subscribe to the shared international standards and commit to their use and implementation, thereby ensuring that the standards are used in all countries in which professionals in the coalition operate.
The coalition will provide universal rules that classify and define fire safety standards at project, state, national, regional and international levels. Professional institutions will incorporate these high-level standards and rules into their guidance or local standards, and we expect governments to support or adopt these principles, or both. All organisations in the coalition will participate in implementing the shared international standards through their respective memberships.
At present, the many contrasting standards across the world have created uncertainty and confusion in the design, testing and approval of construction methods, products and operation of buildings. Research has shown that inconsistent approaches to the assessment and regulation of fire safety can lead to a loss of confidence by governments, financiers, investors, occupiers, and particularly the public in buildings and, in extreme cases, result in loss of life and injury. Loss of confidence can seriously affect valuations of assets, and lead to a loss of inward investment in a country.
IFSS will be used throughout the world in both developed and developing nations. Each organisation in the IFSS Coalition has committed to the standards’ adoption throughout its own professional membership. Our aim is that all higher-risk buildings to which occupiers and the public have access will eventually comply with IFSS.
The coalition is a group of 60+ professional and not-for-profit organisations responsible for researching, developing, publicising and implementing IFSS globally for the construction and real-estate sectors, and was established after the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, supported by and launched at the UN in Geneva on 9th July 2018.
At the UN ECE meeting in October 2018, whom present were all 58 countries in this UN region, it was agreed to consider adopting the new IFSS standards once published as UN standards. The coalition are also developing plans for a Decade of Action for Fire Safety 2020-2030 which will align with the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). During the Decade of Action, it is anticipated there will be many initiatives to raise awareness of fire safety, including public education, training, and fund raising to assist meeting the targets of the Decade.
The coalition has established a standard-setting committee of global fire experts, dedicated to realising shared and international fire safety standards. The first draft it is anticipated will be available for public consultation in Autumn 2019. In addition, a Fire Safety Terminology document is also being worked on in collaboration with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) and is expected to be published later in 2019.
For further details of Members of the Coalition so far, please see here.