When should engineering judgements be used and who should they be produced by? Firestopping FAQs

An engineering judgement (EJ), otherwise known as a technical assessment or technical evaluation, is a fire-resistance evaluation of an onsite application that does not have any direct test evidence.

What is the purpose of an engineering judgement?

It is common that, whilst onsite, contractors will encounter unique applications that simply do not have any primary test evidence. There are many reasons why this may be: lack of an appropriate test method, furnace size limits resulting in a full-scale fire test being unlikely, or the impracticality of testing every variation of a particular theme, e.g., firestopping service penetrations.

In a different scenario, where the practice of early engagement has not been adopted, firestopping may have been installed into a supporting construction, regardless of whether it has been tested, thus, relying on an assessment to retrospectively confirm, or disapprove, suitability.

Therefore, the purpose of an engineering judgement is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the application in question for when an approved and tested firestopping solution does not already exist.

How are they created?

Based on third-party test evidence! To reach a conclusion, engineering judgements will essentially pull together many pieces of relevant data for the specific performance characteristic under review.

The PFPF technical assessment guide proposes that an assessment should be written so that if another party wishes to review it, they will find any underlying results and logic behind the outcome. This also includes the details of the individual’s competence who produced the engineering judgement. Think of it as a road map of evidence. Upon completion, the contractor will receive the proposed solution along with the supporting certification.

Who should they be produced by?

In Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future report, Hackitt proposed that the government restrict the use of engineering judgements. However, she also specified that if an assessment is needed, then it be carried out, appropriately, by competent individuals.

> See also: The formula for competency

As stated in the Best Practice in Design and Installation guide, “[Engineering judgements] can be undertaken by test laboratories, certification bodies, other fire consultants and/ or manufacturers (on their own products).” Conflict of interest may arise when manufacturers conduct assessments on their products; however, the PFPF guide generally allows engineering judgements of this kind if this is made clear and can be effectively managed.

The individual conducting the assessment needs to review the available test evidence, impartially and holistically, and understand what is required. For example, the size of the opening and whether there are going to be other services running through, how much the wall deflects when exposed to fire, and how close the application is to other components like doors.

Does Quelfire offer engineering judgements?

The simple answer is no. Although manufacturers can potentially conduct engineering judgements for their products, we do believe they should be undertaken by a third party to rule out any biases.

The PFPF guidelines are clear on the need for primary test evidence, suitably qualified persons, and impartiality. We will, of course, do all we can to provide suitably qualified persons with any relevant primary test evidence to allow them to conduct the review impartially.

Our primary focus is delivering actual tested firestopping solutions for real-life challenges found onsite, ensuring that a building is designed and built using pre-existing tested solutions. For us, fire testing is crucial to understanding how an application will react should a fire break out.

Of course, there is a place for engineering judgements in the industry for untestable, unique applications found on site. However, engaging early with the relevant manufacturer who invests in testing and certification is paramount in ensuring your application does have a tested solution.

Ultimately, early engagement minimises the need for engineering judgements.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at technical@quelfire.co.uk.

Alec Purdie

This question was answered by Alec Purdie

Technical Manager

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