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14 Mar 2023

Why Masonry is the key to occupant safety

The rigorous enforcement of new building regulations, commencing with the requirements of the 2022 Fire Safety Act last month, will have left little doubt to anyone about the Government’s intent to safeguard residents.

They’re also doubling down on their aim to increase transparency and accountability within the housebuilding sector. Now everyone, from specifier to contractor, asset owner to building manager, will be under intense scrutiny. One defect, error, or omission during design, build and operation could see the project scrapped or delayed if they do not comply with the letter of the law. That’s not to mention the heavy fines and legal action that can result from falling out of regulatory compliance.

It’s no different for building product manufacturers, with the expectation that any marketing information is up-to-date, clear and demonstrates suitability on a project-by-project basis. The days of cookie-cutter construction and poorly judged value engineering are well and truly over.

This new, more responsible approach, dovetails Dame Judith Hackett’s long-held ambition to achieve a ‘Golden Thread’ of information. I hope the influx of regulations goes some way toward achieving it. Indeed, Michael Gove made it clear last month that developers needed to get with the programme or find another line of business. While I believe it is best to avoid industry-wide knee-jerk reactions, it will usher in a new age of more conscientious thinking about how we design housing stock and what we use to build it.

This is where MPA Masonry’s membership are more than ready to offer solutions... After all, it’s well-known that concrete and aircrete blocks are fire resistant. In fact, it provides the best fire resistance of any structure building material currently available.

For a start, blocks cannot be set on fire and emit no VOCs, smoke, or drip molten particles. Essentially it offers peace of mind for residents and responsible parties alike. It means they remain one of the best, and most relevant, materials for the construction of regulation-compliant residential properties

Furthermore, as a standardised product, there’s limited scope for lower-spec products, and the systems in which they are specified are well established. Ultimately, any one of our members can provide products that meet the specification requirements.

Of course, I haven’t even mentioned blocks’ other performance qualities, from energy-efficient homes to structural integrity and it's underrated sustainability qualities. That’s for another day.

With the Grenfell Inquiry report publishing in the summer and Gateways 2 and 3 coming online in the Autumn, housebuilders need to pay it forward, proving they can deliver secure and comfortable homes in which people feel safe – and are safe.

Choosing to build in blockwork is one tried, tested, and true way of achieving this goal.

Steve Callow, Housing Manager, MPA Masonry