Future of fire safety and building regulations in MMC structures

On 13 March, the Building Offsite Solutions (BOS) online seminar delved into the intricate world of fire safety and building regulations within Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) structures. Three esteemed speakers Dr Jennifer Charlson (Infrastructure Projects Authority), Samantha Fearnley (Vista Insurance Brokers) and Chris Miles (Fire Protection Association), shared invaluable insights, igniting discussions around the implications of the Building Safety Act (BSA), building regulations, and insurance risks, particularly emphasising MMC and Offsite construction methodologies.

Navigating the Landscape of Building Safety Act (BSA) and Regulations

Despite the grand vision, the BSA is a work in progress, leaving some apprehensions within the construction sector, especially due to its potential retrospective application. Attendees learned that the evolving BSA and changes in building regulations carry implications for all stakeholders in the construction industry. The utilisation of lightweight construction materials can pose significant risks, including increased vulnerability to fire and elevated carbon emissions.

NFCC’s Concerns and the Call for Guidance in MMC

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) spotlighted concerns regarding MMC in their Position Statement and Written Evidence, stressing the lack of guidance on integrating fire safety into MMC structures. The absence of long-term performance data and exposure to legacy issues from existing MMC buildings were also highlighted. The webinar aimed to address these concerns by exploring how new regulations can mitigate fire safety risks associated with cavities in modular buildings.

Insights from an Insurance Perspective: Managing Risks in MMC Construction

The insurance landscape echoed a cautious tone, emphasising proactive risk management to maintain a competitive edge. While recognising the potential of MMC to revolutionise construction, insurers echoed concerns regarding the lack of historical performance data, particularly in fire safety and durability aspects. Collaboration between industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies was emphasised to ensure resilient MMC structures and access to affordable insurance throughout their lifespan.

Nurturing Innovation while Mitigating Risks

The passion for MMC’s potential to transform the UK’s construction landscape was palpable, yet the path forward necessitates a balance between innovation and risk mitigation. Standardisation emerged as a recurring theme, offering confidence to purchasers and insurers alike. Rigorous quality control measures, collaboration across the supply chain, and adherence to fire safety protocols were highlighted as essential steps in fostering resilient MMC structures.

Charting a Course Towards Compliance and Insurance Optimisation

As the Fire Safety Act reshapes the construction paradigm, ensuring compliance and mitigating insurance risks remain paramount. Engaging with fire safety professionals, staying informed about regulatory updates, and fostering collaboration with insurers emerged as crucial strategies. Standardisation, design reliability, and a thorough understanding of materials’ fire safety properties were underscored as key elements in navigating the evolving landscape of MMC construction.

Conclusion: Forging Ahead with Confidence and Collaboration

The journey towards safer, more resilient MMC structures demands a collective effort from all stakeholders. With collaboration, diligence, and a commitment to quality, MMC has the potential to not only revolutionise construction but also pave the way towards a sustainable and resilient future.

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