Understanding and meeting the challenges posed by ‘Dual Certification’

The ‘dual certification’ of doors relates to the need for doors to meet certain standards of both security AND fire safety. This sounds eminently reasonable, but there are some potential pitfalls to avoid if dual certification is to be achieved.

In this post, we explain why dual certification is coming more to the fore and suggest how it is best approached.

Fire safety v security

In some ways, the need for doors to provide both security in everyday life and safety in the event of fire can work against each other. For example, a highly secure door with multiple locks could well slow down the attempts of anyone to open it and escape a fire.

This potential dichotomy was something noted in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster. Dual certification provides assurance that a door works from both a security and fire control perspective.

The need for dual certification has also been driven by the police’s ‘Secure by Design’ (SBD) scheme. Although this is primarily concerned with the need to build security into buildings – and their doors – the scheme insists on all door certification being issued by one certification body. In other words, a certification from one body in relation to fire safety and a separate certification from another body in respect of security is NOT acceptable.

When door specs don’t match

It might seem straightforward to obtain dual certification from a single body, but experience shows that unexpected problems can arise.

First, if you are seeking dual certification for doorsets that have been around for a while, the version which has been fire tested may not be completely identical to the version which received security testing. If this is so, a certification body will not usually provide dual certification. From their perspective, if the specs of the doors do not exactly match, they cannot treat them as the same item. This isn’t widely appreciated, and some companies have been unpleasantly surprised to find their applications for dual certification being rejected, or significantly reduced in scope.

Testing bodies need at least three, and often more, identical examples of the same doorset to conduct their tests, especially when you add in the other requirements of the SBD scheme (which include smoke testing to BS/EN 1634-3, operational and strength testing to BS 6375-2, weather tightness to BS6375-1, repeated opening and closing to BS 1191, and bi-directional fire testing to BS/EN 1634-1). Once a door has been fire tested to the point of failure, it would be unreasonable to then test the same door for its security properties, and vice versa! The question is then, how do you supply the identical doors for them to test if you are working with heritage test reports?

The most obvious way would be to select an existing doorset which has been tested for fire safety or security and build further sets to exactly the same spec. However, it may not be easy to do this. For example, an item of the original specification may no longer be available, or presents supply chain issues. Especially at the moment, such issues may arise from the impact of Brexit or the Covid crisis, on top of more usual problems like price increases which prompt a resourcing of a part.

Tip 1: In our experience, rather than working with old specs – which you may not even particularly like now – it is better to redesign the door with a clean sheet, using a spec that you will be able to maintain easily in the future.

The time it takes

Once you’ve decided what door spec you want to get tested, you may then encounter the next problem: a long delay.

Assessment bodies are working with very large backlogs just now. This is partly down to the number of applications they are having to reject and then retest, as described above. We have heard from one assessment body that they will be unable to produce reports in respect of any new applications for at least three months. The average testing and report production then takes a further three months to complete, so be ready for at least a six month wait.

Tip 2: Incorporate as many of the different elements your doorset could have – the maximum glazing, a door viewer at a suitable height for wheelchair users and also for standing height users, letterbox, numerals, grooves, morticed hardware, etc – into the version submitted for testing. This will save reapplying for tests of doorsets carrying different combinations of the features. Always bear in mind that in PAS 24 (security) testing, approval of any element of a door will apply only to that exact specification. If you use a 4 x 30 mm steel fixing in the hinges, that is what you have to use in subsequent fire testing and production. If you fit a security viewer at one metre above the base of the door, that is where it must be fitted on all doors. And so on.

Your testing is done – what next?

Once your doorset has passed its tests, the results must be submitted to a UK conformity assessment body, who will review the fire and security test reports. They will then write their own dual summary report.

This summary report then goes to a third-party certification body who, all being well, will produce the independent certificate for dual fire and security certification.

Is all this absolutely necessary?

Although elements of dual certification crop up in Building Regulations – such as the requirement for mandatory PAS24 testing referenced in Approved Document Q – there is no suggestion that certification needs to be provided by a single certifying body. Furthermore, the police SBD scheme, which does require dual certification, is voluntary, so there is no legal compulsion to join the scheme and abide by its rules.

However, although the SBD scheme is voluntary, it is becoming the accepted standard. The scheme has been tremendously successful in reducing burglaries – typically by around 80%. Where local councils have adopted SBD, crime has been displaced to neighbouring councils, prompting them, too, to adopt the scheme.

The effect is that, although dual certification is not a legal requirement, it is progressively becoming a requirement in practice. Without signing up to the SBD scheme – and therefore to dual certification – companies will find it difficult to win business from local councils and housebuilders.

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