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United Nations, Geneva. Image CC credit: munksynz - flickr

RICS joins organisations from around the world to address fire safety standards

RICS has joined more than 30 organisations from around the world to develop landmark industry standards to address fire safety in buildings.

The group, known as the International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition, was launched at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland this week.

The coalition consists of local and international professional bodies and standard-setting organisations committed to developing and supporting a shared set of standards for fire safety in buildings.

The standards aim to set and reinforce the minimum requirements professionals should adhere to ensure building safety in the event of a fire.

As the property market has become increasingly international with investments flowing across national borders, the sector still lacks a consistent set of high level global standards that will inform the design, construction, and management of buildings to address the risks associated with fire safety.

Differences in materials testing and certification, national building regulations or codes, and standards on how to manage buildings in use, particularly higher risk buildings, means there is confusion, uncertainty and risk to the public.

Gary Strong, the RICS Global Building Standards Director cites the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 as a recent example which demonstrates the need for a coherent global approach to fire safety.

“The Grenfell Tower fire focused the world’s attention on how many buildings are threatened with the prospect of failing fire safety standards. All over the world we see the need for more high-rise structures, some residential, some commercial and some mixed-use buildings, particularly in cities.

“Our concern is not with the height of these buildings but with the risks they pose in the absence of a coherent and harmonised approach to setting global standards in fire safety. The effort by the IFSS Coalition aims to address this concern and bring together the design, construction and management aspects of ensuring fire safety of building assets.”

As the RICS representative to, and Chair of, the IFSS Coalition, he says that the Grenfell fire – the worst in the UK for almost a century that claimed 72 lives – not only focused attention on building and fire safety in the United Kingdom but also exposed global inadequacies in how fire safety standards are set.

Once the high-level standards are developed, the IFSS Coalition will work with professionals around the world to deliver the standards locally. The standards will be owned by the IFSS Coalition and not by any one organisation.

As its first order of business, the IFSS Coalition will set up a Standards Setting Committee that will draw on a group of international technical fire experts to develop and write the high-level standards to ensure they are fit for purpose across global markets.

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