Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
TUESDAY 20 JULY 1999
120. Do you think there is a need for a regulation?
(Dr Ledbetter) I am not fully aware of the circumstances
at Irvine. These are rare events and they should be kept in perspective.
I suspect that, if we were to have the regulation, we would have
to carry out tests every time we went to do a project.
121. You talk about the need for fire testing
but what does it cost for one of these tests?
(Dr Ledbetter) The costs of the tests are not clear.
I am not well placed to tell you the cost of commissioning the
tests but you have to understand that if you ask anybody who conducts
tests what the cost is you have to add to that the cost of making
the specimen. You have to build a three storey piece of wall.
122. If I were to say to you that the cost could
be anything between £10,000 and £20,000, the cost of
recladding a building is about ten million, so the cost in real
terms is minimal, is it not? Therefore, to have the test done
before the installation of any of these systems would seem to
be a fair way forward, would it not?
(Dr Ledbetter) The cost of running the test is not
£10,000 to £20,000. In the case of Irvine where they
simply replaced the windows, to do an effective test we would
have to make a part of that building. It has been there for 20
years so how do we make those existing panels and put the windows
into them to test them? It is complex and expensive.
123. Is it not the case that, while you are
trying to suggest that it is the cost of the actual test that
is the barrier, the real barrier is that in industry they would
need to have a change to the product line?
(Dr Ledbetter) No, that is not what I am suggesting.
If we take the Irvine case, there are many windows that could
have been used in that building. It would be possible to select
windows with different performances and that is a matter for the
purchaser, the client.
124. If as a company, which you are, you were
told that there had to be a change made to your product line,
that would be a fairly substantial cost implication to you so
you would do anything, would you not, to have that happen to your
(Dr Ledbetter) I am not a company; I am a research
125. You are employed by the manufacturers.
(Dr Ledbetter) I am employed by manufacturers and
by clients. I am a membership based organisation. I have local
authorities and manufacturers.
126. Your wages are paid by people who manufacture
these things and it might be argued that you have a reason for
(Dr Ledbetter) And by people who use them. I would
say I was independent for that reason.
127. Even although you are not particularly
a single company, you are therefore representing the industry.
Is it not the case that if there were to be recommendations after
fire testing and in every instance there was to be one and it
had cost implications of some enormity, it would affect your?
(Dr Ledbetter) My experience of the industry is that
provided there is legislation or standards which are universal
then manufacturers will change their products to comply because
it is just an added cost to the cladding which is passed on. That
they can handle. What they cannot handle is confusion where, even
if they wish to improve their product as many do, they are undercut
by people in the market who do not comply. The industry would
like a level, clear field on which they could produce a good product.
128. Are you saying we have that now or not?
(Dr Ledbetter) No, we do not have that because we
do not have agreed standards. We have different standards for
129. You think we need agreed standards quickly?
(Dr Ledbetter) If we had agreed standards and they
were universally agreed and applied, then the cost would just
be a cost to the client, the local authority or the owner of the
(Mr Buntain) My understanding is that there are no
regulations which cover the fire performance of windows, apart
from providing means of escape. This was not an issue in this
case. There is nothing, to my knowledge, within the regulations
of any part of the United Kingdom, which would have impacted on
Irvine or any other window that has been installed throughout
the whole of the country. They are not tested, as I understand
it, for fire, largely because there are other parts of a window
which are even more fire reactive, such as the glass. The glass
always breaks and that is a hazard in itself. It is a hazard to
fire fighters, apart from anything else. They are not tested and
therefore there is probably no legislation at the moment which
would have been able to be referred to by the Irvine authority
when it came to replacing these windows. They would not turn up
a book and say, "Ah, here is the regulation that applies."
130. Should there be some regulations then that
apply to windows?
(Mr Buntain) It may be that this has to be addressed.
(Dr Ledbetter) It would be very difficult to write
legislation for windows in domestic properties to be fireproof
because people want them to open for reasons of ventilation. You
cannot make people keep the windows closed. Therefore, you are
going to get spread of fire through a window. You have to understand
that windows fulfil many functions. The primary ones are ventilation
and light, not preventing fire.
(Mr Buntain) If you want no problem, make the window
a wall. You cannot do that.
Chairman: On that note, I think we had better
finish this session. Thank you very much indeed.