Every question answered: Do operable fabric curtains (fire curtains) need to be CE marked?

Putting compliance ahead of commercial interests, Adexon explains.

An Adexon white paper
Read time: 42 mins

Table of Contents

Note, throughout this article we will refer to ‘operable fabric curtains’ and ‘active fire barriers’ as ‘fire curtains’ (unless quoting text from another source, or unless it helps context to describe more fully). We are also referring to the vertical configuration of fire curtains as opposed to horizontal fire curtains and concertina fire curtains, unless stated otherwise. Vertical fire curtains account for most of the active fire curtain market by volume (possibly greater than 90%). For clarity, ‘active’ contrasts with ‘static’ fire curtains. As the name suggests, static fire curtains are permanently fixed in place. We do not discuss statics in this white paper. Also to note, references to ‘BS 8524-1’ are referring to BS 8524-1:2013 unless stated otherwise.

1. Executive Summary

Adexon Fire & Smoke Curtains are the leading voice in the UK fire curtain market advocating for compliance with more demanding European standards and tests in lieu of older British standards and tests.

We are a member of BSI National Committee FSH/25 for the review of BS 8524, and BSI National Committee B/538/1 that looks after BS EN 16034, providing specialist knowledge on fire curtains that other wider reaching member organisations may not have.

An example of where we are advocating for compliance with more demanding European standards and tests is the proposed transition to the European fire test BS EN 1634-1. It is more rigorous than the British equivalent, BS 476. The use of the plate thermometer in the European fire test means the product being tested has up to 30% more thermal exposure than the BS 476 equivalent. Another advantage of BS EN 1634-1 is the way the air pressure is set in the furnace. This differs in BS 476, resulting in less rigorous testing in BS 476, especially around the threshold area.

Think of a fire strategy relying on an E60 rating, …

…a 60-minute fire curtain tested to BS 476 (as permitted by BS 8524-1) may only achieve 45 minutes (E45) in the European fire test.

We have known this for over twenty years and yet some UK industry voices are still pushing for a longer transition period away from the British standards after the Building Safety Act proposed the removal of BS 476 in December 2022.

This move by the government is welcomed and is accelerating the transition from BS 8524-1 to BS EN 16034 for vertical fire curtains.

Notified Bodies have withdrawn from supporting BS 8524-1 meaning there is now no valid third-party certification available for BS 8524-1. This withdrawal coincides with BS EN 16034 being harmonised in Nov 2019 and the legal requirement for conflicting national standards such as BS 8524-1 to be withdrawn.

Those with a vested interest in BS 8524-1 seek to keep it current by saying the applications of BS EN 16034 to vertical fire curtains are limited. As you will see in this whitepaper, BS EN 16034 covers all vertical fire curtains and nowhere does it limit itself to retail applications.

There is an inherent and accumulating legacy risk to following the advice to disregard BS EN 16034 for any vertical fire curtains; a risk that those advising are unlikely to indemnify against.

If there were a fire, would insurers pay out where products aren’t compliant with the October 2018 ruling of the GNB-CPR-SG06[1]?

Or will the BSR or the OPSS ‘show their teeth’ and make a point with those that have felt they can flout regulations such as the Construction Products Regulations ‘because there aren’t many prosecutions’? There may not have been many prosecutions historically but who would want to be the first?

Under the European system all products must be certified. This has a cost to it. The British system avoids this by allowing ‘likelihood’ assessments. You can see more about this in section 20, Scope limits and Extended Applications (EXAPs).

To align with the European standards, there is considerable cost required to test a wider range of products, and retest existing products – and potentially having to redesign them so they can pass the superior European tests.

More demanding testing and a wider range of testing are both good for fire safety.

In this whitepaper we analyse some of the claims being made around BS 8524-1 and BS EN 16034, offering a deeper insight, especially looking at statements that appear without substantiation or without the full context.

As aligned with the October 2018 ruling of the GNB-CPR-SG06[1], we find our perspective quite different to that of the ASFP’s Technical Guidance Document 21,‘UKCA / CE marking of operable fabric curtains’. We have great respect for the ASFP, and they do excellent work for their members, representing a large spectrum of trades associated with passive fire. However, in TG 21 they continue supporting the ongoing use of BS 8524-1 despite attempting, unsuccessfully, to rebut the application of BS EN 16034 to fire curtains in October 2018[1].

It may be because most manufacturers of BS 8524-1 fire curtains are members of the ASFP that they retain this perspective, or that most manufacturers that comply with the legal requirements of BS EN 16034 are not ASFP members[3].

Four key points:

  1. The Construction Products Regulations 2013 (CPR) are still a legal requirement in the UK and will be for the foreseeable future.
  2. If a product is ‘covered’ by a harmonised standard it is a legal requirement of the CPR to CE mark the product to that harmonised standard.
  3. The GNB-CPR-SG06 determined in Oct 2018 that BS EN 16034 covers fire curtains[1].
  4. BS EN 16034 being harmonised on 1st November 2019 and covering fire curtains meant it was a legal requirement to CE mark all vertical fire curtains to it from that date, and to withdraw BS 8524-1 for vertical fire curtains[2].

[1] GNB-CPR-SG06 is the ‘Group of Notified Bodies for the Construction Products Regulations Steering Group 06’ that was set up to ascertain, amongst other things, the technical suitability and scope of applications of BS EN 16034 for fire curtains. After an attempted rebuttal by the ASFP and some others in the UK, the GNB-CPR-SG06 determined in October 2018 that BS EN 16034 does apply to fire curtains and is used in conjunction with BS EN 13241-1.
[2] In the foreword of the harmonised standard, BS EN 16034, it states, “This European standard shall be given the status of a national standard… and conflicting national standards shall be withdrawn at the latest by October 2019.
[3] Replacing BS 8524-1 with BS EN 16034 also opens the UK market to more advanced products from Europe. This does not help manufacturers of BS 8524-1 but it is in the best interests of the consumer.

2. Introduction

Fire curtains are a critical fire safety product which, when used correctly and in adherence with current regulations, offer designers many new architectural possibilities whilst maintaining fire compartmentation and protection of escape routes.

This white paper is aimed at fire engineering consultants, architects, and purchasers, to raise awareness around the issue of non-CE marked fire curtains that still appear on the market.

3. Legal responsibility

It is a legal requirement of the Construction Products Regulations 2013 to CE mark products covered by a harmonised standard. Accordingly, since 1st November 2019 when BS EN 16034 became harmonised, all vertical fire curtains must be CE marked to it.

It was in 2016 that EN 16034 was cited in the Official Journal of the European Union meaning it would become a legal requirement to comply with it from 2019 (after its 3-year coexistence period).

Despite this, supporters of BS 8524-1 have given several reasons that they say justify continuing to use BS 8524-1. We go over the seven most common reasons in our video, Reasons cited for using BS 85241. As you will see, none of them hold water.

Technical Guidance Document 21 says the applications of BS EN 16034 in the UK are limited, and that BS 8524-1 should be used in conjunction with BS EN 16034 in the small number of applications they say the latter applies.

However, our perspective – in line with the October 2018 ruling of the GNB-CPR-SG061 and all the major Notified Bodies – is that BS 8524-1 cannot be used with BS EN 16034 as it is a conflicting national standard. Refer to footnote 2, or read more in our article, BS 8524-1: A conflicting national standard that should be formally withdrawn – and the improvements it needed2.

We believe everyone would benefit if manufacturers were encouraged to accept the changes and invest to bring their products up to speed with current regulations and standards.

Seeking to protect BS 8524-1 and refute the application of BS EN 16034 to fire curtains has inadvertently led to some UK manufacturers lagging further behind their UK and European competitors.

We see similarities with BS 476; the UK has held on to this for over 20 years after we have known it is inferior to its European counterparts. This means UK manufacturers who only follow BS 476 have fallen further behind their European competitors in terms of product performance and certification.

Thankfully the Building Safety Act is now seeking to remove BS 476 in favour of the European standards and classifications. We have a short video on the key points why removing BS 476 is good for fire safety3.

4. Third-party certification

A main concern with using BS 8524-1, in addition to the legal responsibility side, is that it doesn’t have valid third-party certification. It is misleading for anyone to claim it does.

Traditionally, the likes of ASFP have advocated strongly for the safety-first principle of valid third-party certification for fire curtains. Indeed, third-party certification was said to be a unique advantage of BS 8524-1 fire curtains, and this was widely promoted until recently. Are we now seeing a moving away from this principle, coinciding with the expiry of third-party certification for BS 8524-1?

Adexon were recently invited to talk ahead of Paul Morrell at Architects Journal’s Fire Safety Design Conference 2023. You can watch Paul’s full talk, Testing for a Safer Future: Independent Review of the Construction Products Testing Regime18.

Paul showed us the five routes to market for a construction product, including the highest level with third-party ongoing surveillance and sampling, ‘1+’ (Figure 1).

Some key take-aways from Paul that relate to this section on third-party certification:

  • “Anything that could cause harm to the public should submit to the highest level.” (‘1+’)
  • “…many, many, many people in this industry don’t know what happened on the 1st October, or they think it only applies to high rise buildings.”
  • From 1st October every “duty holder” must:
    • manage their own competence and those they appoint.
    • take steps to ensure their work is compliant.
    • step away from work they believe is not compliant.
  • “…everyone needs to understand they need to look upstream and downstream on what they do.”
  • “…whilst architects may think that products don’t have much to do with them, they surely do.”
  • “…the products only make sense as a series of assemblies and the testing is just one part of a system of assurance, and not always the most important part.”

He touched on the mapping of how products reach the marketplace and where things can/ do go wrong. He points out there are a lot of factors at play.

These considerations, complex processes and controls are why we say valid third-party certification is the best way to reduce the risk to you as a buyer or specifier. Otherwise, there is a whole host of aspects you are relying on the manufacturer’s self-declaration for.

He proposed a seven-step process for getting products to market:

  1. Product (and testing) standards that deliver the desired outcome (not concrete life jackets).
  2. A testing regime that assures conformity to those standards.
  3. A traceable, verifiable chain of custody (product and information).
  4. “Above all”, effective surveillance and enforcement.
  5. A knowledge base, centre of expertise.
  6. Feedback and learning lessons.
  7. A plan of work – industry, government, regulators, academia working together.

And some more, pertinent points:

  • “…two thirds of construction products have no harmonised (aka designated) standard for them so there are no testing requirements before they go to market, or independent oversight.”

It is why we are thankful vertical fire curtains do have a harmonised standard that covers them, BS EN 16034.

  • “…no short cuts” and “it should be tested” – don’t let the owners say it is getting in the way of innovation (e.g., Theranos, Babylon, OceanGate)
  • “…designers need to understand the limitations of the testing process [e.g., cavity barrier tested between two perfect concrete walls] so manufacturers need to give them enough information so they can make those judgments.”
  • “…please try enforcement first before increasing regulation”, is one of the calls in the industry. “Without a good enforcement system people can’t trust competitors to act honestly.”
  • “…you have to be able to get from the certificate what it was tested for and what the limitations of that are, and the EXAPs.”

Valid third-party certification is a significant risk mitigator for “duty holders”. We believe it is as important as legal compliance for life-safety products such as fire curtains – the stakes are that high.

Echoing the thoughts of Paul Morrell above, it is our view that valid third-party certification is a mandatory requirement for life-safety critical products to reduce risk for the consumer too. Without it there are no independent inspections and audits to ensure the product arriving on site is the same design with the same components and manufactured in the same way as the product that was tested originally.

You can read more why third-party certification is so important and how it greatly reduces your risk in our article, How valid third-party certification reduces your risk to close to zero4.

Those that advocate for treating third-party certification as optional because it suits the BS 8524 situation are setting a dangerous precedent.

You may also hear about “third party approvals to BS 8524-2”. This is misleading as BS 8524-2 is a code of practice and third-party certification or approval for it does not exist per se. What is available to all installers is the SDI 05 third-party certification scheme run by the IFC for installation of ‘Fire And Smoke Curtains (Active Or Passive)’. This is not unique to, or an advantage of, BS 8524. To infer otherwise is misleading.

To give an idea of how the quality of installation of BS 8524 fire curtains can be very poor, we have seen BS 8524 fire curtains installed in a super-prime central London office HQ using a paint pot lid as a packer. Whilst this won’t be a fair reflection of all BS 8524 fire curtain installations, what it does show is that the installation of BS 8524 fire curtains is not necessarily controlled any more than other installations.

This obviously doesn’t pass even a basic workmanship test let alone showing BS 8524 in a good light. (You can see more on this incident on our blog post5)

5. How robust is BS 8524-1 really?

You may have heard about “misinformation on BS 8524 and CE marking fire curtains from resellers of products from European manufacturers, whose products are unable to meet the robust requirements of BS 8524”.

Let’s parse this sentence.

…misinformation on BS 8524 and CE marking fire curtains…”. When saying there is misinformation it is always helpful to say what it is and why it is so, with reliable source backing. We haven’t seen evidence of this.

…European manufacturers…”. We are not sure of the relevance of mentioning European manufacturers, but we do know that European standards and tests are more demanding, thorough, and better controlled.

…unable to meet the robust requirements of BS 8524”. Some of the poorest fire curtains on the market have been tested to (and previously certified to) BS 8524-1. A case in point is the aforementioned installation in the billion-pound office development in London5. The frustrated and out-of-pocket facilities management company (one of the largest in the world) have given up on the BS 8524-1 fire curtains installed just three years ago and are now ripping them out.

6. Building Control

Claims have been made that BS 8524 was created to satisfy Building Control, building code and regulations. Whilst the intention to satisfy Building Control may have been there, viewing` the quality of some BS 8524-1 products on the market points to a failure in the delivery of the intention. Further, we are not aware of regulations that BS 8524 satisfies and this is possibly a misuse of the word ‘regulations’. Reviewing an in-depth technical comparison white paper6 of BS 8524-1 with the European harmonised standard that has replaced it, BS EN 16034, there is a lot of room for improvement with BS 8524-1, some life-safety critical.

7. Cycle test before fire test – is it an advantage?

Carrying out the cycle test prior to the fire test has the potential to provide assurances that a fire curtain tested each week for several years will still perform in a fire. However, if the specimen size or set-up differs in the cycle test to the fire test, and/ or if the elements most prone to wear and tear are not fire tested, the concept has more limited, if any, benefit.

We have not seen field evidence of fabrics deteriorating courtesy of use other than those that use the old design. Unfortunately, the prevalent wear and tear issues (which are only associated with the old design) are not fire tested meaning the cycle test in BS 8524-1 misses the point and is pretty much of meaningless value. Below are examples of what happens frequently to fire curtains with the old design, and why. If this regular failing were fire tested it would make the ordering of cycle test before fire test of merit:

BS EN 16034 requires operation prior to fire and smoke testing (see ‘Annex A [normative] Pre-test conditioning, A.2.2 Operability test’ in ‘A.2 Before the resistance to fire test’, and ‘A.3.2 Operability test’ in ‘A.3 Before the smoke control test’) but only 25 cycles. This may be explained as a test of the operation of the fire curtain rather than a purported fabric wear and tear test prior to fire test.

Fire curtains are cycle tested 500 times or more (category 1, see Figure 6 below, extract from BS EN 16034) in all three standards used over the last decade in the UK: BS 8524-1, BS EN 16034, and ISO 21524.

We see issues on a weekly basis during callouts with the old design, some fire curtains fail to perform less than a year after installation, and it is the retention method causing this that we advocate should be cycle tested and then fire tested in future revisions of standards.

8. Hot motor test

In our white paper, Safety is the standard7, we outline how BS 8524-1 works and the performances, testing and guidelines it contains. We touch on the “Annex G, Hot Motor Operation Test” which enables the fire curtain to be opened at 400°C without any temperature controls, potentially endangering the lives of those in the vicinity as well as the building itself. We believe this is dangerous in most situations; no one should be allowed to open a fire curtain when the temperature is even close to 400°C. Even fire fighters’ extreme training doesn’t exceed 200°C20. We have an analysis of this hot motor test in our article, The dangers of the hot motor test in BS 8524-1:20138

At best the hot motor test may be beneficial in a very rare combination of factors. At worst it could enable a user to open a fire curtain whilst a fire is raging on the other side, being fatal to the user and the building.

The number of times the temperature around the motor is dangerous and yet it is still safe to operate the fire curtain is infinitesimally small compared to the number of times the opposite is true. Further, there is no data to support a hot motor test being a sensible requirement, even if there were considerable further controls added to ensure it was safe. Our view is the opposite…

On the balance of probability alone motors should be designed to not work at elevated temperatures. This would prevent an untrained user from unwittingly opening the fire curtain when it is dangerous to do so.

9. Is BS 8524-1 in transition and should it be used during this period?

When viewing the technical comparison of BS 8524-1 with BS EN 16034 (see white paper already referred to6) it is evident that there are not sufficient performance or testing grounds to argue the continued use of BS 8524-1 whilst:

  • BS 8524-1 has no valid third-party certification;
  • BS 8524-1 cannot offer a route to legal compliance with the CPR; and
  • BS 8524-1 is a conflicting national standard that construction law dictates should be withdrawn from the market.

To say “BS 8524-1 is currently in a transition phase, with a number of UKAS approved Notified Bodies in the process of seeking final approval from UKAS for a new scheme” is misleading. BS 8524-1:2013 has gone and will not be back. If BS 8524-1 does come back it will be considerably different, it will not be the same standard.

Notified Bodies cannot commence the concept phase for a new BS 8524-1 certification scheme until a new BS 8524-1 is published. As already stated, it may never reappear, and if it does it is quite some time away. To say Notified Bodies are in the process of seeking final approval implies an imminence that we know cannot be true. We can say this as being part of BSI’s National Committee, FSH/25, responsible for the future of BS 8524-1.

During this potential transition stage from the original BS 8524-1 to a potentially new revision, BS 8524-1 fire curtains should not be used if we go by long-held principles that put life-safety and risk averse thinking ahead of commercial interest, and if we adhere to legal compliance with construction legislation.

10. The scope and definitions of BS EN 16034

As we have seen in the Executive Summary ‘Four key points’, BS EN 16034 essentially replaces BS 8524-1. To acknowledge BS EN 16034’s application to vertical fire curtains is to acknowledge the requirement to formally withdraw BS 8524-1 with respect to vertical fire curtains. Vertical fire curtains account for perhaps 90% of the market by volume.

It would lack credibility if supporters of BS 8524-1 said BS EN 16034 did not apply to fire curtains at all so they instead seek to minimise the applications of BS EN 16034 to vertical fire curtains. Their argument that BS EN 16034 only applies to fire curtains when used as a door to allow personal access / egress to a retail’s premises is an incorrect reading of the scope of BS EN 16034 and ignores the definitions of the standard. It is also contrary to:

  • the October 2018 ruling of the GNB-CPR-SG06[1],
  • the position taken by Notified Bodies such as Efectis and Applus+,
  • the position taken by the likes of UKAS (Accreditation Bodies), and even,
  • a BS 8524 seller’s own CE ‘Declaration of Performance’ which states:
      • “Intended use: Fire/smoke compartmentation and on escape routes. Harmonised standards: EN 16034: 2014, EN 13241: 2003+A2: 2016”

BS EN 16034:2104 ‘Pedestrian doorsets, industrial, commercial, garage doors and openable windows — Product standard, performance characteristics — Fire resisting and/or smoke control characteristics’ has the following scope, “safety and performance requirements applicable to all fire resisting and/or smoke control products intended to be used in fire and/or smoke compartmentation and/or escape routes, which are either:

– industrial, commercial and/or garage doorsets, rolling shutters or operable fabric curtains intended for the installation in areas in the reach of persons and for which the main intended uses are giving safe access for goods and vehicles accompanied or driven by persons, or
– rolling shutters or operable fabric curtains used in retail premises which are mainly provided for the access of persons rather than vehicles or goods, or
– pedestrian doorsets and/or openable windows and/or inspection hatches which are hinged or sliding, intended for the installation in areas in the reach of persons, and for which the main intended uses are giving safe access for persons.

Language is plain in the use of ‘either’ and ‘or’ with commas; a single term is relevant in isolation without being dependant on another term. We see this in contracts that invariably say, ‘should one clause be unenforceable it shall not render any other clauses unenforceable’.

The definitions in section 3 include:

  • A “doorset”, defined as a range of items including “rolling shutter and/ or operable fabric curtains including any frame or guide” or “rolling or folding curtain”.
  • An “operable fabric curtain”, defined as a “doorset with leaf constructed from woven material… which functions as a rolling shutter”.

Accordingly, it is accurate to say the scope of BS EN 16034 includes a “rolling shutter and/ or operable fabric curtain including any frame or guide” or “rolling or folding curtain”.

A pedestrian doorset therefore includes fire curtains that are “in the reach of persons” meaning it is misleading to say, “Fire curtains… replacing sections of a wall are outside the scope of BS EN 16034 and do not need to be CE marked.”

Taking another moment on this we see the scope covers operable fabric curtains (a doorset with leaf constructed from woven material which functions as a roller shutter) including any frame or guide or rolling or folding curtain. This is an accurate description of fire curtains. Those seeking to question this may say a fire curtain doesn’t function as a roller shutter functions. Our reply would be, What is the material difference in function between a fire shutter and a vertical fire curtain? We all know there is no difference. Both are vertically rolling ‘doors’ with side guides and headbox that provide fire compartmentation to the classification tested to e.g., E60, and are activated by the fire alarm (or other activation as required to suit the fire strategy).

The applicability beyond retail units is not only written into the standard and supported by the highest authorities possible, but is also vindicated from a safety perspective; we can get hurt just as much by a falling door in an office as we can in a retail unit.

Nowhere does the definitions or the scope restrict the application of BS EN 16034 to retail premises.

We can see, therefore, that BS EN 16034 is not limited to retail premises. It covers fire curtains installed “in the reach of persons” meaning it is a legal requirement of the Construction Products Regulations 2013 to CE mark all vertical fire curtains to BS EN 16034 since 1st November 2019 when BS EN 16034 became harmonised.

In answer to another question raised, the scope also includes “pedestrian doorsets [see definitions above] intended for the installation in areas in the reach of persons” so it is misleading and incorrect to say, “Fire curtains protecting external windows… are outside the scope of BS EN 16034 and do not need to be CE marked.

11. Is BS 8524-1 a conflicting national standard?

BS 8524-1 is a national standard, not a European standard, and it does not serve a different purpose to BS EN 16034. There could hardly be more fundamental similarity between the two with regards to vertical fire curtains. Indeed, they both have the same fire test, the same smoke test, and the same cycle test. These are the three most essential tests for the product, and they are both applicable to the same fire curtains. If you bought a vertical fire curtain tested to BS 8524-1 and you bought one tested to BS EN 16034 you could get an identical product.

The ASFP black book confirms “much of the testing [in BS 8524-1] is identical to that needed to comply with BS EN 16034:2014, notably the fire testing to BS EN 1634-1:2014 +A1:2018, Fire resistance and smoke control tests for door and shutter assemblies, openable windows and elements of building hardware – Part 1: Fire resistance test for door and shutter assemblies and openable windows”.

The reality is that BS EN 16034 ‘covers’ fire curtains and BS 8524-1 is a conflicting national that should be formally withdrawn.

BS EN 16034 should be used on its own as determined by the harmonised standard itself (conflicting national standards shall be withdrawn, not used in conjunction with the harmonised standard).

BS 8524-1 falls into the category of conflicting national standards – with regards to harmonised standard BS EN 16034 – and should have been formally withdrawn in October 2019; the foreword of BS EN 16034 states, “This European standard shall be given the status of a national standard… and conflicting national standards shall be withdrawn at the latest by October 2019.

You can read more about this and fire curtain regulations in the UK in our white paper, Fire curtain regulations in the UK9, or read more around BS 8524-1 being a conflicting national standard in our article, ‘BS 8524-1: A conflicting national standard that should be formally withdrawn – and the improvements it needed2

We also hear, “fire curtains have unique characteristics and functions that require specific testing and certification. BS 8524 was developed for fire curtains for specific reasons… to ensure they meet the necessary performance and fire safety requirements”. If we again compare fire curtains with fire shutters, there are no “unique characteristics and functions” nor “specific testing and specific reasons” that are essential to their performance in a fire that are not covered by BS EN 16034. No one has ever disputed that fire shutters are to be CE marked to BS EN 16034.

12. BS EN 13241-1:2003 + A2:2016

CE marking to BS EN 16034:2014 is undertaken in conjunction with BS EN 13241:2003+A2:2016, the scope of which is “the safety and performance requirements for doors… intended for installation in areas in the reach of persons… [and] also… doors such as rolling shutters”. In simple terms BS EN 13241 covers the safety performance aspect of the product and this compliments the fire and smoke performances that are covered by BS EN 16034. Supporters of BS 8524-1 have sought to undermine BS EN 13241 in connection with fire curtains as another way to keep BS 8524-1 current. They have done this by trying to query the definitions.

BS EN 13241 uses the terms and definitions given in EN 12433-1 which states “For the purpose of this standard the term ‘door’ is being used to describe gates and shutters as well as doors.

As before, there is no material difference between a fire shutter and a fire curtain in terms of safety requirements and/ or fire and smoke requirements. Indeed, we often start the conversation with someone new to fire curtains by saying “fire curtains are like a roller shutter but with a fabric curtain instead of a lath curtain.

13. BS EN 16034 has already been challenged (unsuccessfully) in 2018.

Some in the UK, including the ASFP, sought to rebut the applicability of BS EN 16034 to fire curtains in conjunction with BS EN 13241 in 2018.

The GNB-CPR-SG06 (Group of Notified Bodies for the Construction Products Regulation for door and windows, Steering Group 06) listened to their case and determined at the 19th meeting of SG06 in November 2018 that it is possible to CE mark fire curtains to BS EN 16034:2014 in conjunction with BS EN 13241:2003+A2:2016.

If there hadn’t already been a rebuttal attempt, you could say it would only be fair to hear out those with concerns. However this has already taken place and the outcome determined leaving no doubt as to the applicability of BS EN 16034 to fire curtains in conjunction with BS EN 13241-1.

14. Future updates and changes to standards

We have seen attempts to raise doubts around BS EN 13241 by referring to potential future updates such as, “EN 13241 is undergoing review by committee CEN TC33 WG5”. As the BSI and anyone conversant with standards will tell you, standards should only be used in their published current form, and no one should be quoting from revisions of standards that are under review or out for Public Consultation.

This is because draft standards may never reach publication and it is potentially misleading to quote them.

Speculating about the future of a standard and/ or regulation as a reason not to comply with what is current today sets a dangerous precedent. Standards will be updated, revised, introduced, and superseded but what we must go by is what is current today, without speculation about what may happen tomorrow.

For all of us, our responsibility is to comply with today’s regulations and follow today’s standards.

If the criteria and framework on standards moved speculatively (as opposed to when changes are confirmed) there would be no benchmarks for excellence, reliability, best-practice, or safety. Everyone could take their pick of what suited them; we would have no standards.

And if we didn’t have to comply with today’s regulations because tomorrow there may be something different, we would have no regulation.

Either would be dangerous for fire safety, and life-safety, and put the consumer at great risk.

15. The Machinery Directive

Manufacturers of fire curtains must meet the requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008/Machinery Directive, subsequently modified by The Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, No. 696. This is demonstrated either by a self-declared ‘Declaration of Performance’ (DoP) CE marking or by a third-party Notified Body issued ‘Certification of Constancy of Performance’ CE marking (Fig. 6).

For general knowledge’s sake, CE marking in respect of the Machinery Directive was proposed to end on 31st December 2024 but after the Department for Business and Trade announcement on 1st August 2023 it will be acceptable for the foreseeable future.

CE marking to the Machinery Directive does not relinquish the manufacturer’s legal responsibility under construction law to CE mark products to a harmonised standard where a harmonised standard covers their product.

CE marking to an applicable harmonised standard is one way of satisfying the requirements of the Machinery Directive – but the converse is not true.

BS EN 16034 is the harmonised standard that covers fire curtains and is what all manufacturers must CE mark their fire curtains to. This is a legal requirement of the Construction Products Regulations 2013.

Where there is no harmonised standard for a product, manufacturers can CE mark as follows:

a) Fix a CE/ UKCA mark to the product before putting it on the market, and,
b) Detail (name and address) of the person responsible (manufacturer, authorised representative, installer as applicable) adjacent to the CE/ UKCA mark, and
c) Issue a Declaration of Performance (DoP) to the end-user with instructions for installation, use and maintenance, and
d) Create and keep a technical file showing how relevant H&S requirements have been satisfied and where products are made in series, the measures taken to ensure continued conformity. This must be available on request to European market surveillance authorities.

Note. The Declaration of Performance replaces the old Declaration of conformity. The key difference is that the Declaration of Performance must be created not just for specific product types, but for each individual product, resulting in increased manufacturer effort21.

The self-declaration CE mark leaves a lot on the consumer to check and exposes them to the risks of trusting the manufacturer. Accordingly, it is significantly safer for the consumer for a product to be CE marked with a ‘Certificate of Constancy of Performance’ (see Fig. 7) issued by a third-party Notified Body who are accredited by the likes of UKAS. This is a considerable benefit of construction law mandating CE marking to a harmonised standard, evidenced by a Certificate of Constancy of Performance, where a harmonised standard covers a product, and this is also why it is strongly desirable for a product to be coved by a harmonised standard rather than not. Why would anyone seek to argue a product is not covered by a harmonised standard when this extra level of safety for the consumer is offered and available?

16. CE and UKCA marking

After leaving the European Union, the CPR was enshrined in UK law with the Construction Product (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. Harmonised standards such as BS EN 16034:2014 became designated standards. The UKCA mark was introduced for the designated standards and works in the same way as the CE mark works with harmonised standards. Either are acceptable but one or the other must be used for all products covered by harmonised (aka designated) standards.

As such the legal requirement to CE mark (or UKCA mark) under the Construction Product Regulations remains in the UK after 1st January 2021. Fire curtains that are placed on the UK market are therefore required to carry either a CE mark or a UKCA mark to BS EN 16034:2014. The latest Government advice is that from 1st July 2025 only the UKCA mark will be appropriate marking for products that fall under the scope of the Construction Product Regulations (such as BS EN 16034:2014). Northern Ireland has different rules.

17. Manufacturer’s claims for continuing to use BS 8524-1

We have a video and article called, ‘Seven reasons given for using BS 8524-110. The reasons given are neither best practice nor withstand scrutiny.

Some of the manufacturers claims in these ‘reasons’ are quite misleading. Below is an analysis:

Manufacturer claim No. 1:The ASFP are helping find a new Notified Body; two are already creating their BS 8524 schemes and one is awaiting approval from UKAS. We have started the certification process with them”.

Are these Notified Bodies creating a scheme for BS 8524-1:2013 or for a future version of BS 8524-1 is under review and both Notified Bodies that did support it have withdrawn from supporting it. A future version has no known publishing date and may never happen.

Yes, a revision of BS 8524-1 is drafted for public comment but as per our article, ‘BS 8524-1: A conflicting national standard that should be formally withdrawn – and the improvements it needed’, it has some significant headwinds to overcome, not least the fact it is a conflicting national standard and should be formally withdrawn with respect to vertical fire curtains. Even if it overcomes this challenge, the changes required before it is fit-for-use are so extensive that they could be debated for months or even years. As such, it is premature and misleading to claim that Notified Bodies are creating schemes for it and/ or awaiting approval from UKAS. This implied imminence of availability of a third-party certification scheme before the revised standard has even been finalised, let alone published, is misleading.

It is unlikely that a Notified Body would go too far creating a scheme for a standard that is in the process of being updated, and potentially may never reach the publishing stage.

An example of why Notified Bodies couldn’t get too far with a BS 8524 scheme is the allowance of BS 476 in the old BS 8524-1:2013. Will the next version of BS 8524 still refer to BS 476? The Building Safety Act is removing British standards and classes including BS 476 in favour of European standards and classifications. See more on our video, Why scrapping BS 476 is good for safety3.

Manufacturer claim No. 2:The date of our BS 8524 certificate is 2026”.

This is very misleading as it implies the third-party certificate issued by IFC is still valid until 2026. It isn’t.

On 23rd June 2022, IFCC (the last Notified Body to support BS 8524-1) announced, “With regret IFCC announces its withdrawal from the provision of the Product Certification Scheme for Active Fire Curtain Barrier Assemblies, SDP11-02 [the IFCC scheme name for BS 8524-1 third-party certification]. The recent retirement of critical staff combined with an organisational restructure has left the business technically unable to deliver this scheme.”11

On the 9th June 2022 IFCC had written to manufacturers saying, “we will maintain the certification if requested for a period of 12 months from the date of this letter”, meaning the last BS 8524-1 third-party certification expired on 9th June 2023.

To imply the third-party certificate is valid beyond 9th June 2023 is misleading. It isn’t and would likely fall foul of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 which describes itself as, “An Act… prohibiting misdescriptions of goods… provided in the course of trade”.

Independent Factory Production Control audits and inspections, and independent UKAS accredited process assessments are the fundamental value of third-party certification. Without them, a certificate has no more value than the paper it is written on.

Manufacturer claim No. 3: “We have ISO 9001 approval for manufacturing”.

So have manufacturers of soft toys. Can they manufacture fire curtains? ISO 9001 is not even in the same conversation as valid third-party certification for manufacturing fire curtains to a fire curtain product standard such as BS EN 16034, BS 8524-1 (when it was available), or ISO 21524.

Manufacturer claim No. 4:A number of regulatory bodies deem our approach ok”.

This is possibly a misuse of the word ‘regulatory’. Regulatory refers to law and legislation. If not, who are these regulatory bodies and what, specifically, have they deemed ok? Are they providing indemnity against any adverse outcomes of BS 8524-1 fire curtains not being manufactured as they were independently tested and certified?

Manufacturer claim No. 5: “We are providing a managed, ethical, professional approach to this situation”.

To quote the UK ‘Head of fire’ from one of the largest contractors in the world, “if I made something in my garage, I’d say it was perfect, wouldn’t I?”

Unfortunately, you cannot ‘hang your hat’ on something a commercially driven manufacturer says.

Think Kingspan. One of the biggest.

Read, BRE ends relationship with Kingspan over reputational risk following Grenfell Inquiry revelations12.

Independent assessment and periodic Factory Production Control audits by a UKAS accredited Notified Body are invaluable for ensuring the product sold is identical to the product tested.

18. BS 9999 and BS 9991

It is sometimes cited that BS 9999 and BS 9991 refer to BS 8524-1, including the revisions currently under consideration.

Taking a step back, we have already gone over how all vertical fire curtains are covered by BS EN 16034:2014 and why it is a legal requirement to CE mark / UKCA mark to it.

We have also gone over how another product standard cannot be considered where a harmonised standard covers a product such as fire curtains.

Whilst BS 8524-1 is currently under review by BSI, and has not yet been formally withdrawn, the third-party certification for BS 8524-1 has been withdrawn by both Notified Bodies that previously supported it, Warringtonfire and IFCC.

It should also be noted that the withdrawal of BS 8524-1 has been proposed in the BSI DPC (Draft for Public Comment) and is currently being reviewed.

See more on why this should happen in our article, ‘BS 8524-1: A conflicting national standard that should be formally withdrawn – and the improvements it needed.’

As such, with regards the current revisions of BS 9999 and BS 9991, two things are certain:

  1. If it is agreed that BS 8524-1 is a conflicting national standard with BS EN 16034 then reference to it will either be removed from BS 9999 and BS 9991, or they will be out of date before they are published; or
  2. If BS 8524-1 is somehow justified as not being a conflicting national standard, then BS 9999 and BS 9991 will still need to be updated to include the legal requirement to CE mark all vertical fire curtains to BS EN 16034, or they will be out of date before they are published.

In the Overarching Statements and Module 7 Closing Statements, 10th November 2022, Richard Millet, KC to the Grenfell Inquiry, referred to ‘dangerously out of date’ guidance as contributory to the tragedy…

“Behind all of these discrete factors there lay… an overreliance… on guidance, some of which, including the statutory guidance, was ambiguous, dangerously out of date, and much of which was created by non-governmental bodies and influenced by commercial interests.

19. The national foreword in BSI’s publication of BS EN 16034

You may have read about BSI’s national foreword in BS EN 16034. This is not part of the harmonised standard and is contributed to by UK industry representatives. BSI themselves will support British standards where they can (such as BS 476) but, even so, they are currently considering withdrawing BS 8524-1 after we have brought the conflict with BS EN 16034 to their attention.

The national foreword states “Users’ attention is drawn to the fact that fabric curtains tested in this standard only apply to the fire door sets fire text. This standard does not cover their operation deployment speeds, initiation devices or warning devices, etc. and as such should comply with BS 8524-1 and BS 8524-2”.

Whether we look at this from a chronology perspective i.e., in the light of BS 8524-1 currently having no support from Notified Bodies and being under review, potentially to be withdrawn altogether, or from a technical perspective, i.e., operation deployment speeds are not unique to BS 8524, the test is also used in ISO 21524 and EN 12101-1, and the initiation devices and warning devices tests are cold laboratory tests with debatable value as the components are already CE marked, this statement doesn’t reduce the legal or compliance risks associated with using BS 8524-1; risks that do not have commensurate upsides to justify taking.

BSI emphasises the legal risk further on in the national foreword, using bold text, Compliance with a British standard cannot confer immunity from legal obligations. This includes the legal requirement to follow regulations such as the CPR ahead of guidance such as unharmonised (or undesignated) British standards.

20. Scope limits and Extended Applications (EXAPs)

One of the benefits of the European tests compared with British tests and standards is the series of direct field of application rules explaining how test results can be used.

The field of application rules includes parameters such as the size limitation being a maximum of 10% greater than that tested. For example, if a product was tested to 3m the tests would permit use of the test reports for sizes up to 3.3m.

If a manufacturer wishes to sell a product above those size limits, say 3.5m using the example above, a formal Extended Application (EXAP) is required which is a third-party assessed, verified, and certified process that must follow the relevant published EXAP standard.

EXAPs are rigid, and rules-based, and use calculation methods and expert judgements already agreed and written down in a CEN standard.

For fire curtains the EXAP for extension of scope of the BS EN 1634-1:2014 +A1:2018 fire test is BS EN 15269-11:2018 “Extended application of test results for fire resistance and/or smoke control for door, shutter and openable window assemblies, including their elements of building hardware Part 11: Fire resistance for operable fabric curtains”.

The rules of BS EN 15269-11:2018 include any parameters of fire curtain design that may be amended, including fire curtain size extension. An EXAP report to BS EN 15269-11 should be conducted by a Notified Body in line with the principles of BS EN 15725:2023 “Extended application on the fire performance of construction products and building elements: Principle of EXAP standards and EXAP reports”.

The EXAP system is one of the ‘night and day’ differences in fire safety between the old British standards system and the current European standards system.

EXAPs help ensure control and safety to a considerably higher degree than the Passive Fire Protection Forums (PFPF) code of practice for assessing how products outside the tested parameters will perform in a fire.

The PFPF code of practice is popular with manufacturers who have limited third-party testing and certification. It is often an on-site, ‘likelihood’ assessment by an individual as to whether a product of a different size or using different components to those tested will perform as required in a fire. Two of the dangerous limitations with this code of practice are control, and consistency; what one person deems ok in the ‘heat’ of a live construction site that is being handed over next week, and what someone else may say in an office well away from the coal face could be two very different things. Life-safety decisions shouldn’t be influenced by site pressures or live programmes, nor be so subjectively assessed.

BS EN 16034 only allows fire tests to the European fire test, BS EN 1634-1:2014 +A1:2018, whereas BS 8524-1 allows either the European fire test or the British fire test BS 476. BS 8524-1 has 30 references to BS 476 in it. You can see more why the removal of BS 476 is good for fire safety in our short video3.

BS 8524-1 says a “full technical appraisal” and “further assessment” (refer to C.1.2, BS 8524-1: 2013) is sufficient to justify changes to the tested design, such as increases in size, change in supporting construction, reveal / face fixing etc. As outlined in the preceding paragraph, our view is that this method of assessing a product’s life-safety performance in a fire should have been prohibited over twenty years ago.

21. Summary

As we have seen in the Executive Summary ‘Four key points’, BS EN 16034 essentially replaces BS 8524-1. To acknowledge BS EN 16034’s application to vertical fire curtains is to acknowledge the requirement to formally withdraw BS 8524-1 with respect to vertical fire curtains. Vertical fire curtains account for perhaps 90% of the market by volume.

It would lack credibility if supporters of BS 8524-1 said BS EN 16034 did not exist or apply to fire curtains at all, so they instead seek to minimise the applications of BS EN 16034 to vertical fire curtains. Their argument that BS EN 16034 only applies to fire curtains when used as a door to allow personal access / egress to a retail’s premises is an incorrect reading of the scope of BS EN 16034 and ignores the definitions of the standard. It is also contrary to:

  • the October 2018 ruling of the GNB-CPR-SG06[1],
  • the position taken by Notified Bodies such as Efectis and Applus+,
  • the position taken by the likes of UKAS (Accreditation Bodies), and even,
  • a BS 8524 seller’s own CE ‘Declaration of Performance’ which states:
      • “Intended use: Fire/smoke compartmentation and on escape routes. Harmonised standards: EN 16034: 2014, EN 13241: 2003+A2: 2016”

This white paper seeks to answer every question we have heard around CE marking of fire curtains, using the original text from the relevant regulations and standards to show the questions raised are without substantiation.

Notified Bodies providing third-party certified CE marking to BS EN 16034 for all vertical fire curtains is further proof BS EN 16034 applies to all vertical fire curtains. The likes of UKAS who accredit the Notified Bodies could not approve the CE marking schemes on offer were it not applicable.

Below in Table 1 you can see a summary of what standards to use for what types of fire curtains (including those not discussed in detail in this white paper i.e., horizonal fire curtains and concertina fire curtains). We hope it has been a helpful read and if you have any further questions, please feel to reach out to one of the team.

Note, we have not included the legal requirement to CE mark to the Machinery Directive as this is not unique to fire curtains and as the white paper is focused on legal requirement and best practices that are unique to fire curtains.

This white paper was written by the team at Adexon Fire & Smoke in October 2023. It includes the views of the Adexon team, and its intention is to raise awareness and standards in the fire curtain industry.

If you have a question for the team or would like to give feedback on this white paper or find out more, please get in touch.

We have a free RIBA CPD on active fire and smoke curtains, either in-person or online, you can book online14 (or contact us).

And/ or keep up to date on regulations and standards around fire curtains with our ‘Fire Safety Insights monthly newsletter15.

22. Additional reading

For an example of going above and beyond legal compliance, read, ‘Are cold smoke seals in fire curtains a cause for concern?16 

If you are interested in impact testing, read why the design of the fabric retention and the durability of fire curtain designs is paramount, ‘Active fire curtain maintenance- and the 3 reasons fabric retention design matters17

If you would like a deep dive read on the regulations applicable to fire curtains, you can find this in our white paper ‘Fire curtain regulations in the UK9

23. References

1 Adexon (2023) Seven ‘reasons’ cited for using BS 8524. Are they valid? Available at: https://lnkd.in/e3E63yhr (Accessed: 09 November 2023).

2 Adexon Team (2023) BS 8524-1: A conflicting national standard that should be formally withdrawn – and the improvements it needed Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/articles/bs-8524-1-a-conflicting-national-standard/

3 Adexon Team (2023) Why scrapping BS476 is good for safety, Adexon. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/video/why-scrapping-bs476-is-good-for-safety/.

4 Adexon, T. (2023) LinkedIn, How valid third-party certification reduces your risk to close to zero. Available at: https://lnkd.in/e4be4HxW (Accessed: 09 November 2023).

5 Bigwood, T. (2023) Tom Bigwood on LinkedIn: #firesafety #firecurtains #smokecontrol. Available at: https://bit.ly/gsfcsurvey (Accessed: 29 August 2023).

6 Adexon Team (2023) A technical comparison of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524, Adexon Resources. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/whitepaper/technical-comparison-of-bsen16034-bs8524/.

7 Adexon, T. (2023b) Safety is the standard – a detailed look at BS 8524 and why it can no longer be used for fire curtains. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/whitepaper/safety-is-the-standard/ (Accessed: 09 November 2023).

8 Adexon Team (2023) The dangers of the hot motor test in BS 8524-1:2013, Adexon. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/the-dangers-of-the-hot-motor-test/ (Accessed: 30 August 2023).

9 Adexon Team (2023) Fire curtain regulations in the UK, Adexon Resources. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/whitepaper/fire-curtain-regulations-in-uk/.

10 Adexon Team (2023b) Seven reasons cited for using BS 8524. are they valid?, Adexon. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/reasons-cited-for-using-bs8524/ (Accessed: 29 August 2023).

11 Bennett, J. (2023) Certification scheme update (SDP11-02), IFC Certification Ltd. Available at: https://www.ifccertification.com/certification_scheme_update_fire_curtains/ (Accessed: 09 November 2023).

12 Bre ends relationship with Kingspan following Grenfell Inquiry, Inside Housing. Available at: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/bre-ends-relationship-with-kingspan-over-reputational-risk-following-grenfell-inquiry-revelations-82169 (Accessed: 09 November 2023).

13 Adexon Team (2023) How valid third-party certification reduces your risk to close to zero, Adexon. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/how-valid-third-party-certification-reduces-your-risk/ (Accessed: 29 August 2023).

14 Adexon Team (2023) RIBA accredited CPD course, LinkedIn. Available at: https://lnkd.in/e8RrY3Q6 (Accessed: 09 November 2023).

15 Adexon Team (2023) Fire safety insights, Adexon Newsletter. Available at: https://bit.ly/AdexonNews (Accessed: 09 November 2023).

16 Adexon Team (2023) Are cold smoke seals in fire curtains a cause for concern? , Adexon. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/article/cold-smoke-seals-in-a-fire/.

17 Adexon Team (2023) Active fire curtain maintenance – and the 3 reasons fabric retention design matters, Adexon. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/article/why-fabric-retention-design-on-fire-smoke-curtains-matters-a-lot/.

18 AJ Fire Safety Design 2023 Watch On-Demand. Available at: https://lnkd.in/eGH8dshJ (Accessed: 15 November 2023).

19 Assessment and verification of constancy of performance (no date) Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. Available at: https://single-market-economy.ec.europa.eu/sectors/construction/construction-products-regulation-cpr/assessment-and-verification-constancy-performance_en#:~:text=The%20Assessment%20and%20Verification%20of,of%20the%20Declaration%20of%20Performance. (Accessed: 15 November 2023).

20 Willi, J.M., Horn, G.P. and Madrzykowski, D. (2016) Characterizing a firefighter’s immediate thermal environment in live-fire training scenarios – fire technology, SpringerLink. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10694-015-0555-1.

21 Anon, (2018). Declaration of Performance / CE Marking – WINSLT®. [online] Available at: https://www.sommer-informatik.com/winslt/index.php/en/declaration-of-performance-ce-marking/#:~:text=The%20declaration%20of%20performance%20replaces [Accessed 27 Nov. 2023].