A clear advantage

A clear advantage

Doors and windows provide more than just access, air and light. Here Paul Duggan, Certification Manager, Warringtonfire and Fawaz Hashim, Senior Engineer, Al Futtaim Element Façade Testing and Advisory Services stress the importance of testing and certification.

Robust testing systems supported by third party product certification, such as BM TRADA’s Q-Mark, or Warringtonfire’s Certisecure and Certifire schemes, deliver the necessary assurance that these components will perform as required.

Third party certification bodies work closely with the industry and standards bodies to test and certify bu ilding components, covering characteristics from strength, durability, thermal, airtightness and acoustic testing, to security and fire resistance.

Fire certification and smoke leakage testing

Third party certification schemes for products help to ensure that the system-based approach required for passive fire protection is correct when the building is completed and throughout its design life. They not only demonstrate the quality that should be expected but allow traceability for future fire risk assessments and maintenance. Such schemes require products to meet established test performance and require ongoing production manufacture audits. Installer schemes require operatives to demonstrate their skills and knowledge with site installations regularly audited.

Independent, third party certification schemes, such as Certifire, provide the regulator, specifier, customer and end-user with confidence in the stated performance of the product and offer an informed choice when purchasing or selecting the product. Certification assures performance, quality, reliability and traceability of products and systems and is recognised by regulatory authorities worldwide as an international mark of fire safety across a diverse range of products, including hardware. 

These schemes are suitable for manufacturers of fire protection products and systems as they offer the opportunity to differentiate products and processes from non-certified equivalents. They can also be used by architects, specifiers, contractors and building owners, as they provide assurance that fire protection products and systems correctly installed will perform as required. This avoids costly mistakes down the line and dramatically reduces risk.

When doors and windows have been properly certified, they should be marked with a label detailing: 

  • the certification body’s name
  • the applied standards for fire, mechanical and security testing (if applicable)
  • the certificate number

The scope of approval is also required and can be found in the product’s scope of certification, manufacturer’s datasheets and/or product literature. This will include a detailed list of components with the manufacturer’s name, key product dimensions, product references, important adhesives and fixing details. 

Smoke leakage testing is also an important component of complete fire safety testing for doors and windows. A fire door which halts the spread of flame but allows the passage of smoke will not do enough to protect life. Smoke control tests can be performed for door and shutter assemblies, openable windows and elements of building hardware. It can also determine the leakage of cold air from one side of a door assembly to the other, and therefore the potential passage of smoke in the event of fire.

Fire doors

Fire doors play a critical role in the safety of a building. They allow access to enclosed fire compartments, which are designed strategically to help contain a fire and delay its spread long enough to allow people to escape safely. Unless you have specific knowledge about these components, fire doors look like any other door. But they are technically complex and highly specialised. Their manufacture, fittings, installation and management are extremely important in the overall fire safety of buildings. If they are damaged or wedged open, they are rendered ineffective and could pose an increased risk to the building, and more importantly, to human life, in the event of a fire. Incorrect maintenance can also lead to criminal prosecution in many jurisdictions.

The face of the door, its core, frame, glazing and associated hardware must be fire tested to the relevant fire standard for the specific timings, which varies depending on the situation. Equally, if incompatible or unapproved components such as door furniture that penetrates through the thickness of the door or compromises the action of the seals, or if the door is in any way damaged, it could also fail. 

Even if the contractor and end user are aware of their legal duties, unless the door is marked and labelled, most are unlikely to know whether the door and frame have passed the appropriate tests to back up the manufacturers’ fire-resisting claims, or whether the door they have been sold is the same as the one that passed the test. They also won’t know whether the installer installed it correctly or if it has been damaged through wear and tear or compromised by unrelated building works. Many authorities in the Middle East require the installed fire door system to be independently inspected by a recognised fire consultant with expertise in fire door compliance. These inspections occur at various stages during construction and upon project completion/handover. Once occupied, the inspections occur at a minimum interval of once annually during the life cycle of the building as part of building assurance. The exact interval of inspections depends on the relevant authority requirements.

In the United Arab Emirates specifically, it is expected that all joiners will take responsibility for testing and certifying their doors rather than basing their certification on any existing test evidence provided by the door core suppliers. So to meet these regulations, save time, and demonstrate due diligence, fire door sets that are third-party certified and clearly labelled to meet requirements should always be specified. Similarly, risks can be mitigated by appointing third-party certified installers to carry out the work. The final part of the due diligence jigsaw is to check that fire doors remain in good working order by employing an appropriately qualified and competent site inspector.

Third-party certificates set out a scope of approval that the product meets specific requirements or standards, and are issued by independent certification bodies. Although not a legal requirement, there are various third-party certification schemes available that assure of quality in manufacture, installation and maintenance so users can be confident in the performance of fire doors.

Bespoke doors can also be designed, which deviate from the tested and certified product, and are subjected to a technical assessment and bespoke door product testing and certification. In the Middle East region, this is becoming increasingly common and many projects now specify bespoke doors for that development only.

Security and acoustic testing and certification

Another fundamental performance characteristic of a door or window is security. They must have the ability to resist various levels of forced entry, from the opportunist burglar that will carry and use small hand tools to try and manipulate the door, to those that know there is a higher reward behind the door and will use more heavy duty tools to try and force entry.

Poor or inconsistent quality in the manufacture of a door or window can result in security performance being seriously compromised. To prevent this, doors and windows must meet the minimum requirements set out by regulation and be tested for certain performance characteristics. Broadly, these require that entrance doors and some accessible windows meet standards for fire and security and fitness for purpose, including escape, durability, weather tightness and usability.

As designers and manufacturers operate in fiercely competitive markets, and it’s fundamental that their products are proven to meet strict standards, specifiers are increasingly looking for higher levels of quality assurance

A test result applies only to an individual sample and is no guarantee that other windows or doors of the same model on the same production line will perform in the same way. Manufacturers can overcome this by having their products third-party certificated as well as tested.

Opting for third-party certification schemes, such as BM TRADA’s Q-Mark or Warringtonfire’s Certisecure, isn’t just about satisfying market demand; it is also a matter of reputation. Manufacturers whose products are third-party certified signal their commitment to quality and to improving the construction industry for the benefit of owners and users. Ensuring that their products meet or exceed the security requirements is a straightforward way for manufacturers to reassure customers that their windows and doors are created consistently in production and are sufficiently robust for their end use.

The final assurance in the performance of doors and windows is acoustic testing which is especially important in large residential buildings and tightly spaced developments where noise could become incredibly disruptive. Acoustic testing can determine the intrinsic characteristics of airborne sound insulation under different sound field conditions, and can be performed on products such as doorsets and windows made from timber, composite, steel, aluminium or PVCu; glazing systems; penetration and linear joint seals; door and window seals; and single and twin leaf partition systems.

Manufacturers are well served to meet the changing demands of the marketplace when it comes to product performance. As a one-stop shop for all door and window testing and certification, Warringtonfire and BM TRADA, part of the Element Group, would be happy to talk to you about your products and projects and how the right testing and certification can help you.

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