Feature: Public Sector Build Journal (PSBJ) July 23 – High Rise Focus
Dave Carr, Managing Director of Propeller Powered, explains how new technology is enabling social landlords to tackle the challenge of checking fire doors, ensuring compliance with new regulations.
For the owners or managers of multi-occupied residential buildings over 11m, new regulations on fire door checks present a huge challenge. Enforced in January 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 require the ‘responsible person’ to conduct quarterly checks on communal doors that lead onto common areas like hallways, and annual inspections on flat entrance doors. Evidence of the steps taken to comply with the regulations must also be recorded.
For social landlords, the rules present a steep and potentially rocky path to compliance. Ensuring fire doors are safe is critical, but with dozens of doors to check even in small housing blocks, the scale of the task can’t be underestimated. For many housing associations and local authorities, new procedures will be required to meet the requirements. Relying on manual processes such as spreadsheets and paper forms for inspections will present a huge administrative burden that swallows significant time and resources while risking human error.
A step ahead
In response, new technology has been fast tracked specifically for the social housing sector. This has been designed to make sure it is flexible enough to meet the requirements of individual organisations as well as the regulations.
The technology’s development is focused on enabling internal teams or external contractors to carry out the checks quickly and efficiently while creating an auditable trail and more transparency.
This is achieved thanks to new cloud-based software allowing fire door maintenance and inspection programmes to be managed digitally. Pilots have shown that this process can help to conduct the checks up to six times faster than manual systems.
Fire doors, including time-stamped images, can be digitally recorded into a database along with a history of inspections for auditing purposes. The frequency of inspections can be set and adjusted to comply with the regulations and to meet an organisation’s own building safety criteria.
At the heart of the software is QR code technology which gives every fire door within a property a unique asset tag. This provides the ‘golden thread’ enabling all those with responsibility to identify, manage, and mitigate risks relative to each door. Using a mobile device, each code can be scanned to reveal the door’s history and any defects can be instantly captured using an App. In real time, this information is logged on a central dashboard where actions for repairing individual doors can be raised and prioritised.
Advanced technology means this process can take place offline if needed, avoiding issues in buildings with poor WIFI connectivity or low network signal.
The QR codes also increase building safety transparency and communication regarding fire doors. Residents can use the codes to access vital safety information about their building, including a summary of a fire door’s service history. The same codes can be used by residents to instantly raise issues about specific doors, and upload photographs, triggering automated tasks that are flagged for action.
Another advantage of adopting new technology is that it can reduce the need to source technical experts or specialists to achieve compliance. The latest software can be implemented in as little as two weeks and requires minimal training. It can be tailored to an organisation’s specific policies, meaning it can be used by social landlords of any size or external contractors, including fire safety specialists and M&E contractors seeking to expand their services into fire door inspections.
The simplicity of the technology means a door can be asset tagged, scanned, inspected and registered within five minutes and the ability to tailor the software provides additional functionality. Other areas of compliance including gas, electrical, and legionella can be incorporated into the same system bringing all key data into one place, eliminating the need for multiple systems.
No access visits can also be recorded using the App, evidencing the number of attempts to survey a flat door for vital safety checks.
With the need to improve fire door safety front of mind for many landlords, some housing associations have already begun to pilot and implement new technology such as Propeller’s Prop-FS.
For example, LiveWest has recently updated its system to record actions for doors and has set up a QR code system. Combined with a dashboard, this technology enables the housing association to assess which doors need to be upgraded or replaced to achieve compliance.
LiveWest’s existing repairs system has set servicing schedules based on priorities identified via the software and plans are in place to inspect all 22,960 doors over the next two years. These include communal and flat doors in buildings less than 11m high to go over and above the regulatory requirements.
With limited time left for the housing sector to refine its procedures for checking fire doors and achieving compliance, adopting new technology can tackle the challenge head on. Advanced software will not only save landlords significant time but provide a robust, auditable register and a higher quality service for residents.
This article first appeared in the July 2023 issue of PSBJ.