Fire safety: international standards to create consistency

Shared safety

26 April 2018

International Fire Safety Standards are being established to ensure a global consistency of approach on this vital issue. Gary Strong details the work that the standards coalition has been doing

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 consistent set of high-level principles for design, construction and management of buildings for fire safety.

Public risk

Differences in materials testing and certification, national building regulations or codes and guidance on managing buildings in use, particularly higher-risk premises, mean that there is confusion, uncertainty and risk to the public.

Multiple differing standards mean there is no single authoritative way to work. But 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.

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. Member bodies subscribe to the shared international standards and commit to their use and implementation.

Universal rules

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 and staff.

At present, the many contrasting standards across the world have created uncertainty and confusion in the 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 the public in buildings and, in extreme cases, result in loss of life.

IFSS will be used throughout the world in both developed and developing nations. Each organisation in the IFSS Coalition has committed to the adoption of the standards throughout its own professional membership.

Our aim is that all higher-risk buildings to which occupiers and the public have access will publicly display a certificate of compliance with the IFSS.

IFSS Coalition

The coalition is a group of 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 late last year after the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London in June.

The coalition supports the creation, maintenance and use of high-quality international standards, developing these using a transparent and inclusive standard-setting process.

Each of the coalition organisations has signed a declaration of support and commitment to promote and implement IFSS, and to encourage world markets to accept and adopt them. It is establishing a standard-setting committee dedicated to realising shared and international fire safety standards.

Coalition members include:

Further members are expected to join the coalition shortly.

IFSS partners

An IFSS partner is an organisation that supports a collaborative approach to the development of international standards and commits, in principle, to the adoption of the suite. Partners might include, but are not restricted to, the following types of organisation:

  • architects and designers;
  • banks and lending institutions;
  • construction companies, such as multinational firms that have international portfolios;
  • construction consultancy firms;
  • construction cost data service providers;
  • construction industry service providers;
  • construction material testing firms;
  • construction product manufacturers;
  • construction-related software providers;
  • engineers;
  • facilities management firms;
  • fire consultancy firms;
  • fire engineers;
  • fire risk assessors;
  • governments;
  • planners;
  • property investment firms and developers; and
  • surveyors.

Prospective IFSS partners are asked to express their interest through any member of the IFSS Coalition, or by emailing the author for further details.

Gary Strong FRICS is RICS Global Building Standards Director

Further information

Fire safety conferences 2020

These two events will discuss the key fire safety considerations, latest legislation, building regulations, identify best practice and provide expert knowledge to remain at the forefront of your profession. They will be held on 11 February 2020 in London and on 17 March 2020 in Manchester.