fire compartmentation survey

What is a fire compartmentation survey?

A fire compartmentation survey is an investigation into a building’s fire safety in terms of how quickly smoke and fire would spread to other parts of the building through areas that should be sealed, such as riser cupboards. A compartmentation survey looks at each living space as a separate unit and buildings should be constructed in a way that means fire or smoke in a self-contained living space, such as a flat, does not spread to other areas.

This is achieved through a number of measures, including fire resistant walls and floors, a flat front door and addressing any components that could lead to the spread of fire such as windows, ventilation and any service shafts. The flat or ‘compartment’ should offer a level of fire resistance that gives people time to evacuate the building – fire resistant walls, doors and floors generally contain a blaze from between 30 – 120 minutes according to the Fire Protection Association.

A fire compartmentation survey forms part of The Developer Pledge. This is a pledge taken by a number of the UK’s biggest home builders who have promised to do the right thing by leaseholders and address any fire safety defects on buildings measuring 11 metres and over in height, that they had a role in either developing or refurbishing. If you need help and advice on how The Developer Pledge can help you, Cladding Consulting can talk you through the process.

It was necessary to include a fire compartmentation survey within the Developer Pledge because experience shows that fire risks are not only posed by the outside of a building –  the inside can be riddled with fire safety issues too.

Why fire compartmentation survey is not always clear cut in terms of liability

At Cladding Consulting, we predict that there are likely to be further issues uncovered once fire compartmentation surveys get undertaken.  Under the terms of the Developer Pledge, developers are obliged to pay for life safety construction defects and this extends to compartmentation defects; however, over the life of a building, services get added, maintenance and repair works are required and developers are not obliged to pay for this work. The following cases illustrate circumstances where the develop is not liable for fire safety detects.

insulation being fitted
Case 1

There are expansion joints in a ceiling void which have been filled with a non combustible mineral fibre insulation. The correct methodology to fill these gaps is to seal mineral fibre insulation into the joint however at the time of construction, the insulation was just stuffed into the joint and was not sealed.

Because it wasn’t installed correctly the fibrous insulation has deteriorated and has been blown out of the joints by changes in air pressure. This now leaves a gap that would facilitate the spread of smoke or fire.

In this instance; the developer would be liable for the cost of remediation under the Developer Pledge.

cable installation
Case 2

Fibre optic internet has been installed to replace the original copper broadband lines. The installation involved running the new cabling up, through the riser cupboards through newly drilled holes, and then into the communal ceiling voids. The cabling is then run from the communal area ceiling into apartments via a hole drilled in the wall.

The installer did not firestop around the new cabling and so there is a gap around the cabling that runs the entire height of the building. This is a compartmentation breach that needs to be rectified however it is not a defect from the original construction.  The developer is not liable for the cost of remediation under the Developer Pledge.

It is important to note that The Building Safety Fund does not cover any costs associated with the remediation of Compartmentation Defects.

Free Consultation

Cladding Consulting can advise if you are negotiating with a developer that is part of the Developer Pledge, are looking to commission a fire compartmentation survey or applying for funding from the Building Safety Fund.

We are familiar with the complexity of all these routes to remediation and work with a team of specialised contract lawyers who have extensive knowledge of this area. We can can talk you through any aspects of remediation funding and assist all the way through the process. Please provide a few details and we will get back to you.

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Our in depth understanding of BSF requirements and experience in working with developers means we avoid unnecessary funding delays or exclusions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The best way forward is to get a survey done with a mutually appointed surveyor who is not pressurised into skewing the results one way or the other. For this reason, Cladding Consulting works very closely with developers and trusted surveyors when assisting with a fire compartmentation survey. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss initiating a fire compartmentation survey.

It is important to note that The Building Safety Fund does not cover any costs associated with the remediation of Compartmentation Defects.

The answer to this question is not a simple one because once a building is completed, repair works are carried out and these may impair the fire compartmentation of the property. The best course of action is to make sure your survey is done by a mutually appointed surveyor who ios not pressurised into skewing the results one way or another. Cladding Consulting works very closely with developers and trusted surveyors when assisting with a fire compartmentation survey.

All new BSF applications now call for applicants to provide an assessment of the risks posed by fire spread over external walls to identify what, if any, work is required. This process, known as the Fire Risk Appraisal of External Walls (FRAEW), must be carried out by competent professionals in line with the new PAS 9980:2022 code of practice, which aims to make remediation solutions more proportionate to the building’s individual level of risk.

For applicants already registered with the BSF before it was paused, there is the choice to continue with the original process, or switch to the new procedure using an FRAEW. If you are unsure of the best route to take in your individual situation, you are welcome to get in touch for a free consultation. If you choose us to manage your cladding remediation, the fees will be covered by the government’s cladding remediation fund.

The government asked major UK developers to sign the Developer Pledge in 2022, which asked them to commit to remediating life-critical fire safety works on buildings of 11 metres and over that they were involved in building or renovating over the plast 30-years in England.

The agreement was made after discussions between the Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities and the Home Builders Federation to protect leaseholders from having to incur the costs of remediation work required on life-critical fire safety defects.

49 developers signed the pledge and in January 2023, the government wrote to them and asked them to sign a legal contract, committing to the remediation work. If they refused, the government explained it would make it very difficult for them to continue constructing – planning permissions would be revoked and work on existing developments would be halted.

The Building Safety Fund was set up to cover the cost of cladding remediating for any buildings more than 18 metres in height with a 30cm tolerance, which have been clad in combustible material.

It covers ‘reasonable’ costs for the works necessary to remove the unsafe cladding and will also cover Cladding Consulting’s fees.

The Developer Pledge is a promise made by some of the UK’s biggest house builders, to admit that leaseholders should not be made to pay for remediation and that they, the developer, take responsibility for any necessary work to put right fire safety issues on buildings of more than 11 metres they had a role in either developing or refurbishing. It covers both the inside and outside of the building.

Where cladding needs to be removed and the developer is not part of the pledge, you can apply to the Building Safety Fund or the new Mid-Rise scheme, which is being piloted and launches in the spring.