Introducing a new British Standard on managing fire safety information digitally

Arising from a recommendation in the Hackitt Review, a new British Standard has now been published on how to manage fire safety information digitally across the life of a built asset. This blog post looks at the background to the standard and what it contains.   

A single defining concept has led to the development of BS 8644-1:2022 Digital management of fire safety information – Part 1: Design, construction, handover, asset management and emergency response – Code of practice. It comes from Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report, which identified an egregious lack of accessible and relevant fire safety information for developing and existing assets across the UK built environment. Among her report’s recommendations was the need to create a “digital standard of record-keeping for the design, construction and during the occupation of new High-Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs)”. In response, we now have BS 8644-1:2022.

Industry-wide collaboration

This new standard is the result of an industry-wide collaboration. Representation and expertise on the drafting panel was drawn from a host of bodies from Arup to UKAS and the Welsh Government, and many in between, including the Fire Sector Federation, the Institution of Fire Engineers, the National Residential Landlords Association, and Royal Institute of British Architects.

BS 8644-1:2022 is a code of practice, meaning it offers recommendations and guidance on the management, presentation and exchange of fire safety information using digital information management processes. It covers the lifecycle of built environment assets, including infrastructure, from first briefing to operation and fire and rescue service intervention.

It should be noted that the standard is intended to be read in conjunction with the BS EN ISO 19650 series of international standards for managing information over the whole life cycle of a built asset using building information modelling (BIM). That said, while BS 8644-1:2022 provides guidance and mechanisms to manage fire safety information using BIM, it also provides guidance to users who do not.

Strategic objectives

The standard is targeted at any individual or organization that contributes to or influences the definition of design, construction, use, maintenance and end of life of a built asset. While it primarily applies to new built assets, its principles can be applied to existing assets. Users will typically be architects, designers, facilities managers, fire and rescue personnel, contractors, local authorities and building control bodies.

The standard’s been developed under the principles of three strategic objectives: to provide a safer built environment that is appropriate for the intended end users; to reduce disruption to business operations and property loss from fire; and to enable relevant, accurate and accessible fire safety information to be made available to the right people at the right time.

In application, it’s intended to enable the achievement of five clear goals. It should clearly identify fire safety hazards; persons, assets and environments at risk; and measure put in place to mitigate those risks.

It should likewise clearly identify tasks and trigger events throughout the asset lifecycle. It should, furthermore, enable the clear allocation of responsibility for fire safety throughout the asset lifecycle and enable a consistent naming convention and information production. These are for the use of all parties sharing responsibilities for fire safety in the built environmental so, importantly, they all “speak the same language”. Lastly the standard’s application should enable the better dissemination of fire safety knowledge, experience and lessons learned. 

Going back to its inception, BS 8644-1:2022 is the first standard to address the Hackitt Review’s call for a “digital standard of recording keeping”. As such it forms a vital part of the UK Government’s programme of building safety improvement. It is hoped that the industry, therefore, embraces the new standard with enthusiasm.