In January 2022, the BSI (British Standards Institute) published PAS 9980, a new code of practice for assessing the fire risk of external wall construction and cladding on existing residential buildings.
It’s intended for use by competent fire engineers and other competent building professionals, tasked with advising on the fire risk of external wall construction of existing residential buildings.
For further information on PAS 9980, visit RICS.
What is PAS 9980?
The PAS 9980 (Publicly Available Specification) has been developed by the British Standards Institution drawing on expert advice from professionals across industry and followed a rigorous development process, including a public consultation.
PAS 9980 provides new guidance on how to assess the risk of fire via an external wall of an existing multi-storey, multi-occupied residential building. PAS 9980 sets out steps that can be taken to identify and assess risk factors as well as mitigation steps that might improve the risk rating of a building via a holistic and fact-based assessment of a building’s construction.
Where it is determined that a detailed assessment of an external wall is required, PAS 9980 should now be used for these assessments. It does not contain ‘off the peg’ solutions to specific wall types and materials but is intended to enable a consistent approach to evaluating the fire risk when considering the external walls of buildings.
Will PAS 9980 require additional surveys to take place?
Whole building fire risk assessments are already required in England for residential premises including common parts under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO). PAS 79 (which has been in existence for a number of years) sets out how to do a standard whole building fire risk assessment, which would apply to all blocks of flats. Buildings with cladding materials which could pose a fire risk should do a more detailed assessment of their external wall system, and PAS 9980 sets out how to do that and will complement best practice guidance for these whole building fire risk assessment (which are already covered by PAS 79).
Will every building require a PAS 9980 appraisal?
PAS 9980 is a methodology to carry out fire risk appraisals of the external wall of multi-storey, multi-occupied residential buildings.
Not all buildings require statutory fire risk assessments. For example, single private dwellings with no common parts are not within the scope of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005.
Of buildings that do require fire risk assessments, not all will require a detailed review of their external walls. In many cases it will be manifestly obvious to a competent fire risk assessor that the risk to life from external fire spread is not such as to warrant a PAS 9980 assessment. This is particularly true in buildings with brick or masonry external walls or low risk buildings which do not present any significant risk of fire spread. In these cases, the fire risk assessor will normally address compliance of external wall construction with the Fire Safety Order as part of the routine Fire Risk Assessment process.
Will PAS 9980 lead to expensive remediations?
Where a PAS 9980 assessment is needed the guidance will enable more proportionate assessments rather than the binary ones that have become prevalent since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in which any presence of combustible wall materials is thought to automatically need expensive replacement/remediation. PAS 9980 is clear that some combustible materials can be retained and managed safely in the external walls of existing buildings.