When entering, exiting or passing through a building, door hardware is always the first point of contact. Whether users are met with a mechanical system such as a lever handle, an exit device or an access control solution, all architectural hardware must be fit for its role - operating as intended the first time, every time.
Aside from being an integral piece of a building’s navigational network, door hardware inherently plays a vital role in critical safety scenarios too. Fire doors and their hardware, when called upon (a total of 151,096 times in the UK in the year ending March 2021, according to national statistics) must demonstrate their reliability through quality, performance and durability. And in order to certify this, testing is paramount.
Impartial product testing
Third-party certification, widely viewed as the safest and fairest testing practice, is the process of testing and verifying a fire door’s design, performance and manufacturing process under British Standards - authenticating the quality of products and providing a guarantee for decision makers and occupants alike. Carried out by independent bodies, third-party certification comprises of meeting specific criteria:
· The Fire Test
· Auditing the Manufacturing Process
· The Audit Test
Today, traceability is as vital as ever. Door hardware must always be synonymous with quality, but over the past few years, critical questions have been raised towards the fire safety of buildings and the integrity of the products used within. Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review has been a catalyst for change, accelerating legislative updates while lifting any remaining ambiguity surrounding fire and building safety.
Addressing the criticisms, the Building Safety Bill was introduced in 2021 and within it, the Golden Thread of Information introduced. The ‘Golden Thread’ policy, initially recommended by Dame Judith, has been designed to increase the transparency of building construction and maintenance, through routinely updated documentation of a building’s life cycle.
More recently, the newly published Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) seeks to promote a change in approach to the management of construction product information, ensuring manufacturers provide clear, accurate, up-to-date, accessible and unambiguous product information. These legislative changes are driving higher standards and put a greater emphasis on product integrity and further stress the importance of transparency through third-party product testing. There’s simply no room for disingenuous product information when it comes to safety.
Speaking on the process of fire door hardware testing, Sue Corrick of Allegion UK comments:
“In fire incidents, for a certified fire door to be effective and compliant, it must be able to fully close and remain closed by itself. Door hardware is designed to work in tandem with fire doors, assisting in the compartmentalisation of the building and facilitating the escape of occupants. And so, when it comes to production, all door closing devices must conform to Standards, EN 1154 and EN 1155 - and for exit devices, the mandatory EN 1125 and EN 179. From July 2013, it became a legal requirement for all products that are covered by a harmonized EN standard to be CE marked, of which, validation for the CE mark requires the production of a Declaration of Performance (DoP) by a manufacturer. This is now also the case for UKCA marking too.
“It’s widely understood that fire doors themselves must be rigorously tested to British Standards BS 476: Part 22 or BS EN 1634-1, to guarantee they remain fire resistant for a minimum of 30 minutes (FD30) or 60 minutes (FD60). With that in mind, decision makers have a clear responsibility to ensure only certified and compliant hardware is fitted to their fire doors - otherwise they risk the reliability of the door itself. All elements of a fire door, from exit hardware to handles, hinges and locks and latches must be fire-rated and thus, tested to verify their performance.
“Outside of third-party testing, it’s also imperative for fire door hardware to be routinely tested internally. Over time, fire doors and their fitted hardware can be subject to wear and tear and so, all elements of the set must be checked to ensure performance remains optimal. To make sure fire doors are functioning in accordance with regulations, responsible parties must often check the functionality and effectiveness of key elements of the door set: including opening and closing devices, the intumescent seals and door strips for example.
“Furthermore, when retro fitting a product, there should always be evidence that the retro fit has been installed in the existing manufacture footprint. To safeguard the integrity of the fire door, it’s crucial that hardware isn’t replaced with an inferior product. Decision makers often find themselves under pressure to keep costs minimal, yet will find the cost for tested, verified products is higher than the cheaper, untested alternatives. But as is always the case with fire safety, cost saving should never detriment the safety of the building and the lives of those within. There’s always value in choosing the tried, tested and trusted methods.”