Fire Safety Codes and Construction Products within the EU – An Evaluation of Harmonisation

University essay from Lunds universitet/Avdelningen för Brandteknik

Abstract: The objective presented in this thesis is to evaluate Fire Safety on Construction Products within the EU from the aspect of harmonisation. The variations in regulations between countries in the EU regarding Fire Safety may be an obstacle to the free trade of goods and services for Construction Products. The aim is to show to what degree the Building Codes are harmonised in respect to the use of Construction Products. Ten countries within the EU were studied; Denmark, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Five research questions are addressed; 1. How can the level of harmonisation of the Building Code be evaluated? 2. How harmonised are the Building Codes? 3. How are the Building Codes for Fire Safety Design structured for the studied countries? 4. Will a higher level of harmonisation result in a higher level of Fire Safety? 5. Can the harmonisation process result in a higher level of Fire Safety? The criterion for a high degree of harmonisation was defined in the work by the authors. The definition was: “if it would be possible for a company in the building industry to complete a Fire Safety Design for a specific building.” This was evaluated from the viewpoint of a Code Consultant, who without previous knowledge about a specific country was trying to access and design the Fire Safety Solutions for a four storey building. For this study the approach was a prescriptive based design. This viewpoint was summarised into three aspects to use for the evaluation of harmonisation, attainability of the regulations, structure in the regulations and level of Fire Safety. The level of Fire Safety, the last of the tree aspects defined here as important for harmonisation, was based on the framework for Fire Safety as described in the Construction Product Regulation (CPR). The CPR is a regulation of building products within the EU, with the aim to reduce trade barriers associated with test-methods and standards. Reducing trade barriers for product is part of the EU aim to create a single market. CPR is not intended to be the sole method for the EU to reach this aim but in this thesis it is used as a bench-mark because it references Fire Safety Regulations as a part of harmonisation. The five requirements on regulations concerning Fire Safety mentioned in the CPR are listed below: 1. The Load-bearing capacity of the construction can be assumed for a specific period of time; Page ii of ix 2. The generation and spread of fire and smoke within the Construction Works are limited; 3. The spread of fire to neighbouring Construction Works is limited; 4. Occupants can leave the Construction Works or be rescued by other means; 5. The safety of rescue teams is taken into consideration The following work was carried out to answer the research questions; a Case Study on the attainability of regulations, a review of the structure within the regulations, and a Case Study to evaluate the level of Fire Safety. The results from the analysis show that the Case Studies were useful for evaluating harmonisation per the definition in the report. On the other hand the review of the structure using the CPR- requirements gave very little information and was not a useful method to evaluate harmonisation. Case Study 1 on attainability shows a low level of attainability for parties outside of the studied country. Of the ten countries studied the relevant regulations were attained for only five countries. For a majority of the countries it was a difficult process to find and understand the documents. There is great room for improvement to make sure that all relevant documents are available online. If websites were presented in English it would open to a larger audience, also other large languages could be considered. The building codes have a low level of harmonisation regarding attainability. The CPR Analysis showed that the headlines from the five CPR Requirements were mentioned in the regulations, but provided no information on how well they were implemented in the detailed regulations. The building codes have a high level of harmonisation regarding structure. Case Study 2 on Fire Safety in a residential building showed three major themes; the level of Fire Safety is very varying although the requirements are described in a similar approach, the level of Fire Safety is lower than expected and different Design Requirements may result in the same level of safety. The study indicated that the level of Fire Safety is very complex, and in order to provide similar levels of Fire Safety a joint scientific approach must be taken when developing prescriptive based code. Requirements on Load-bearing construction stand out as the exception. For Load-bearing construction there is an adopted Eurocode (EN 1990:2003 Eurocode 2004). This could be the explanation for the high degree of harmonisation in this area, or it could be that the Eurocode was possible to develop based on the preexisting high level of similarity. The building codes have a low level of harmonisation regarding the level of Fire Safety. The requirements mentioned in the CPR does not describe what the specific level of Fire Safety should be, each country decides themselves through political decisions on a reasonable level of Safety, appropriate to their specific circumstances. A Case Study, as used in this thesis, will only show variations between the countries and cannot be used to evaluate a reasonable level of Fire Safety. This work has several practical applications. Firstly, it points to the need for guidance to the correct documents. The countries could improve the access to websites and understanding of the hierarchy with search optimisation and introductions to the hierarchy of regulations in different languages. The findings also suggest a role for the EU to function as a gathering source. All the regulations can be found once the name of the relevant regulation is defined, but this first step can present a large obstacle without network or previous knowledge. Lastly the differences in the content of the regulations implicate that to achieve the aim in the CPR regarding the level of safety; a work similar to the Eurocodes for construction could be the solution if developed for all of the five requirements. This work does not evaluate if this is a practically viable solution.

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