Fire curtain regulations in the UK

Including, the status quo of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524 today

An Adexon® Fire & Smoke Curtains white paper

Read time: 40 mins

1. Introduction

Table of Contents

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 excellent fire compartmentation and protection of escape routes.

This white paper is aimed at fire engineering consultants, architects, and purchasers. It outlines the regulations that apply to vertical fire curtains in the UK today (hereinafter referred to as fire curtains) and provides guidance to those responsible for procuring fire curtains. Please note, we are not referring to the very rare fire curtain fitted over window openings in our use of the words ‘vertical fire curtains’; window opening fire curtains are sufficiently rare as to not warrant being specifically called out. 

We also include the status quo of the two most prevalent fire curtain standards used in the UK, BS EN 16034 and BS 8524. However, it is important to know, as BSi tell us, that “standards aren’t the same as regulations and following a standard doesn’t guarantee that you’re within the relevant laws. In fact, standards rarely cite the law as legislation could change within the lifetime of the standard1.

The primary importance is compliance with the regulations.

If you would like a deep dive into the aforementioned standards, you can find this in our white paper ‘A technical comparison of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524’2.

We will discuss ISO 21524, “Fire resistance tests — Elements of building construction — Requirements for active fire curtains” in another article. ISO 21524 is the only standard used in the UK with third-party certification from a Notified Body that specifically covers horizontal fire curtains.

We always advocate using third-party certification to a product standard where available, as opposed to third-party certification to just a product test such as the fire resistance test BS EN 1634-1:2014. There is more on this further on.

The unique and intricate design of horizontal fire curtains reinforces only using ISO 21524 third-party certified products for them (horizontal fire curtains).

ISO 21524 is a good product standard but, unfortunately, as with BS 8524-1, it is not a harmonised standard and hence cannot offer legal compliance to the Construction Products Regulations for vertical fire curtains, hence currently limiting its use.

Note, for ease we mostly refer to BS 8524 Part 1 simply as ‘BS 8524’ in this white paper.

Some context as to why this white paper is an important read for anyone involved in fire curtains:

1. “Fire safety liability is one of the biggest challenges for most architects; 51% of architects say that liability when it comes to fire safety is one of the biggest challenges their company faces, with 43% constantly worried about liability when it comes to the specification of systems for fire safety, even if they do not personally specify the products3.

Examples that serve to underline these worries include,

    • Insurer not required to pay for fire where sprinkler was off4, published in the Risk Management section of the Business Insurance journal, and
    • London leaseholders take legal action against building owner over fire safety defect5, published by International Fire & Safety Journal

2. Richard Millet, KC, Lead Counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, in his closing statements in Nov 2022 said: ‘Behind all of these discrete factors there lay… an overreliance… on guidance… much of which was created by non-governmental bodies and influenced by commercial interests

2. Construction Products Regulations 2013

The legislation applying to construction products has changed significantly over the past decade. The CE Marking Association point out, “There has been a European Directive (89/106/EEC) covering Construction Products since 1991, which was only voluntary in the UK. However, since 1st July 2013, the old Directive was replaced by the new Construction Products Regulation (305/2011/EU) making it mandatory for construction products in the UK (and the rest of Europe) to be CE marked.6

The government guidance on the ‘Construction Products Regulations’ “includes requirements for construction product[s] to have CE marking and to be accompanied by a Declaration of Performance (DoP) and other information if it is to be placed on the market in the European Economic Area and it is covered by…a harmonised European product standard…

The guidance also clarifies “All existing harmonised European standards became UK ‘designated standards’. This means that harmonised European standards and UK designated standards are currently identical.” In addition to this, it states “Accepted marking or combination of markings for Construction product being supplied to the GB market until 30 June 2025 are UKCA or CE or CE & UK(NI)”.

For fire curtains, BS EN 16034 is the only harmonised standard available to CE mark to. It has applied since 1st November 2019, its scope is “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… rolling shutters or operable fabric curtains… and which are manually or power operated and… normally held open but self-closing in case of fire or smoke… and completed… with or without any seals (e.g. for smoke control, fire resistance…)”.

It is used in conjunction with the standard BS EN 13241:2003+A2:2016; Industrial, commercial, garage doors and gates – Product standard, performance characteristics.  This standard “specifies the safety and performance requirements for doors, gates and barriers, intended for installation in areas in the reach of persons”. Confirming the tandem nature of the standards, BS EN 13241:2003+A2:2016 states in paragraph 1.1 that “Fire resisting and/or smoke control characteristics for industrial, commercial, garage doors and gates are covered by EN 16034.”

The acid test as to whether a product shall be CE marked is whether it is ‘covered’ by a harmonised European product standard.

As such, with CE marking available for vertical fire curtains to BS EN 16034, it is clear that vertical fire curtains are ‘covered’ by BS EN 16034, making Provision 4 of the CPR apply (see extracts lower down). Accreditation Bodies akin to UKAS (e.g. ENAC), and Notified Bodies such as Applus+ providing CE marking to BS EN 16034 for vertical fire curtains is evidence the standard ‘covers’ vertical fire curtains. In July 2018, in preparation for the harmonisation of EN 16034, Applus+ (Notified Body Nr. 0370) published ‘New CE Marking for fabric fire curtains’7.

Conversely, with or without third-party certification (see ‘Third-party certification’ section), BS 8524 is not harmonised and cannot offer fire curtains a route to compliance with the CPR.

Indeed, to keep BS 8524 legal for vertical fire curtains after 1st November 2019, one would have to argue that BS EN 16034 didn’t cover fire curtains. Whilst this could be argued for horizontal and concertina fire curtains, it is difficult to argue this for vertical fire curtains when Notified Bodies are providing CE marking to it.

As well as the scope of BS EN 16034 clearly covering fire curtains, to say vertical fire curtains were not covered by BS EN 16034 would also mean differentiating between vertical fire curtains and fire shutters, two products that are essentially the same (there is no debate about fire shutters coming under BS EN 16034).

Indeed, the similarity between the products is such that when someone asks, What is a fire curtain?, the easy answer is to say, Are you familiar with roller shutters – they are the same but just with a steel fabric curtain instead of the steel scroll lath curtain. If there were a case for differentiating products based on these micro differences, a ‘need’ would arise for a multitude of new product standards. This would be impractical, and create confusion for the consumer with multiple standards to choose from, most of which would suit a ‘for-profit’ manufacturer and it’s stakeholders rather than being ‘safety-first’.

Hence, it is clear that the only use for BS 8524 after 1st November 2019 is for concertina fire curtains and horizontal fire curtains. All vertical fire curtains supplied since this date must legally be CE marked to BS EN 16034 regardless of other tests or certification.

To speculate about the future of a standard and/ or regulation as a reason not to comply with what is current today would set a very dangerous precedent. Standards will be updated, revised, introduced, and superseded but what we must go by is what is current today, without a smokescreen of 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 goalposts were always moving speculatively (as opposed to when changes are confirmed) there would be no benchmarks for excellence, reliability, best-practice, or safety. It would be everyone for themselves. Chaos would ensue.

If we didn’t have to comply with today’s regulations because tomorrow there may be something different, we would have no regulation. This would be highly dangerous for fire safety, and life-safety.

There is more on the legal requirements in a later section, ‘Need there be any uncertainty?’.

It is also not a question of considering the benefit of using BS 8524-1 in an ancillary role at additional cost. The two standards conflict. 

You can read about the pros and cons of BS 8524, and how much cross-over there is with BS EN 16034 in our white paper, ‘A technical comparison of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524’2

Provisions 2 & 4 of The Construction Products Regulations 2013

Some critically important extracts from Provision 2, Interpretation12, and Provision 4, Prohibition on Supply etc.13, are:

  • 2.—(1) In these Regulations—… “supply” includes offering to supply, agreeing to supply, exposing for supply and possessing for supply, and related expressions shall be construed accordingly.”
  • 4.—(1) A person who supplies a construction product that is covered by a harmonised standard or conforms to a European Technical Assessment that has been issued for it shall be guilty of an offence unless—

a. there is supplied with the product in accordance with Article 7 of the 2011 Regulation a declaration of performance for the product drawn up in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the 2011 Regulation; and

b. the product has affixed to it the CE marking in accordance with Article 8(2) of the 2011 Regulation…

4.—(3) A person who supplies a construction product to which the CE marking has been affixed in breach of any provision of Article 8 or 9 of the 2011 Regulation shall be guilty of an offence.

4.—(4) A person guilty of an offence under this regulation shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to both.

With the accompanying CE marking and requisite record keeping, audit trail requirements, and transparency, it is in the interests of consumer safety for a product to be included under a harmonised standard, as opposed to looking for reasons to exclude a product from the safety of the CPR.

There is inherent and serious risk in buying or specifying construction products that do not comply with the CPR. For example, “A person guilty of an offence under this regulation [the CPR] shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment… or to a fine”13. Since the CPR came into force on 1st July 2013, everyone in the supply chain has a duty of care responsibility, whether buying, selling, specifying, approving, or installing.

Secondary significant risks are complaints raised by consumers as to a product not being legally compliant; could this lead to insurance companies withdrawing fire cover for the asset and/ or could the consumer sue for damages due to latent defects? Could products have to be replaced and a building be closed whilst that work is carried out?

To recap, fire curtains are a construction product that fall under the CPR and must legally be CE (or UKCA) marked to the harmonised standard that covers them (BS EN 16034). CE marking to the Machinery Directive does not satisfy the legal requirements of the CPR where there is a harmonised standard in existence that covers the product. 

In the BSi publication of BS EN 16034, the foreword of the harmonised standard 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.” As can be seen from the scope of BS EN 16034 (see more in section 7 of this white paper) it is clear that BS 8524 is a national standard that conflicts with BS EN 16034. Both cover fire curtains and it is semantics to seek to differentiate between operable fabric curtains and active fire curtain barrier assemblies (or active fire curtains of any other description). If you order a fire curtain that is tested to BS EN 16034 and you order one that is tested to BS 8524, you will get two of the fundamentally same product. There may be scope for a future version of BS 8524 for concertina fire curtains and horizonal fire curtains (but not vertical fire curtains). This is because BS EN 16034 does not cover concertina and horizontal configurations of fire curtains so there would be no conflict. You will see more by reading on, and also in our white paper, ‘A technical comparison of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524’2. BSi have added a ‘National foreword’ that refers to BS 8524 which we discuss in more detail later on. In it they also include this important note in bold, Compliance with a British Standard cannot confer immunity from legal obligations’. ‘Legal obligations’ would include compliance with the CPR for construction products as evidenced by CE marking third-party certification, to the applicable harmonised standard, from a Notified Body.

3. Guidance for those responsible for purchasing fire curtains

Three common scenarios exist:

1. Where you are advised to buy fire curtains that do not comply with the CPR.

Ask for indemnity, backed by an AAA-rated insurer, against adverse consequences. It may also be prudent to provide the insurers with information relating to fire curtain regulations in the UK such as covered in this white paper. This is so the insurers can’t say subsequently that there was material evidence available that they weren’t made aware of.

2. Where you are concerned about fire curtains you have installed or purchased since 1st November 2019 not complying with the law.

The government guidance on the ‘EU Construction Products Regulation and CE marking, including UK product contact point for construction products’ advises: “If you have concerns regarding other construction products not being CE marked, then you should contact either the local authority Trading Standards office or alternatively the Trading Standards office for the area where the product manufacturer concerned has its head office8. Again, you should provide information relating to fire curtain regulations in the UK such as covered in this white paper, in support of your claim. Being ahead of future claims by other parties is vital for mitigating damages. If you can be seen to be proactively remediating issues, you may avert insurance being refused or a building being deemed unsafe for use. And, most importantly, being on the right side of the law is critical for a life-safety product that depends on reliability of performance to save lives.

3. Where you are in the predicament of having placed orders for products you are concerned about.

Evaluate whether having to U-turn on existing procurement is worse than installing something non-compliant. Factor in the costs involved now, such as programme overrun, and see if this can be mitigated by accelerated production of replacement orders. Compare this with the potential future costs such as the building being uninsurable, or having insurance that doesn’t cover fire, or the building being unusable and having to rehouse the users and occupants whilst remediation works are carried out due to fire risks, or the costs of latent defect claims, or the PR cost of complaints. Factor in probability and make a numbers-driven decision.

4. Common standards

Having explored the regulations applicable to fire curtains, let’s look at the two most commonly used standards for active fire and smoke curtains in the UK, BS 8524 and BS EN 16034.

As we touched on above, BS 8524 is a national standard that conflicts with BS EN 16034 as referred to in the harmonised standard foreword of BS EN 16034. You will see more about why these two are conflicting standards by reading on, and also in our white paper, ‘A technical comparison of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524’2.

What is BS EN 16034:2014?

In short, the scope of 16034 is to identify safety and performance requirements applicable to all products intended to be used in fire and/or smoke compartmentation or protecting escape routes, specifically doorsets, rolling shutters, openable windows and operable fabric curtains. The performance specifications include references to other standards which contain definitions for fire resistance and smoke control.

What is BS 8524-1:2013?

Part 1 of BS 8524 specifies requirements for the design, testing and classification of active fire curtain barrier assemblies. It includes performance aspects relating to the reliability, durability, fire resistance, smoke containment and impact resistance of active fire curtain barrier assemblies, their control devices and ancillary equipment. There is also a part two, BS 8524-2, a code of practice related to installation and maintenance of BS 8524-1 product. 

5. Third-party certification

Aside from the legal requirements of the CPR, International Fire Consultants (IFC) and Warringtonfire have withdrawn from offering third-party certification to BS 8524 within the last two years, and there are currently no Notified Bodies certifying products tested to this standard. The harmonisation of BS EN 16034 in 2019 may have contributed to this decision, directly or indirectly.

On 23rd June 2022 IFC cited, “The recent retirement of critical staff combined with an organisational restructure has left the business technically unable to deliver this scheme”, as the reason for withdrawing.

This means that the last remaining third-party certification for BS 8524 expired on 9th June 2023.

Whilst BS 8524 third-party certification from a Notified Body may become available again in the future, the industry is unanimous there will be a gap. What no one knows is how long this gap will be. It could be months, it could be over a year or more. During this gap, anyone could claim they have passed some or all of the applicable tests and sell non-certified BS 8524 fire curtains. How will they perform? Where will insurance sit on the matter? What legacy liability could accumulate?

In contrast, BS EN 16034 provides traceability, assurance, and transparency with third-party certification so there are none of the aforesaid risks that are associated with BS 8524. BS EN 16034 also offers CE marking for vertical fire curtains. This further mitigates risk from a fire safety perspective, even before factoring in the legal aspect of the Construction Product Regulations.

In a post-Grenfell world where we have seen how manufacturers can deviate from reasonably expected behaviours, the independent inspections and Factory Production Control assessments that are part of valid third-party certification have never been more important to ensure that the manufactured products reaching site are the same as the original tested specimen. 

Third-party certification and its considerable costs are justified (and should be insisted on) for life-safety products. The alternative is to leave manufacturers to their own ‘for-profit’ devices. If the merits of third-party certification were debatable, then it would quickly disappear to save manufacturers the cost burden and hence allow them to pass on the savings to the consumer. The industry is unanimous as to maintained third-party certification being essential for life-safety products.

When we refer to third-party certification, we are referring to third-party certification to product standards such as BS EN 16034, BS 8524-1, and ISO 21524, not just third-party certification to an individual product test such as the fire test, BS EN 1634-1. Third-party certification to product standards progressed life-safety considerably over 10 years ago, and we do not advocate going backwards where a product standard is available.

A product standard is a combination of complimenting product tests. For example, BS 8524-1 and BS EN 16034 are both product standards with an extensive list of product tests e.g., they both have the same:

  • fire test (BS EN 1634-1:2014)
  • smoke test (BS EN 1634-3:2004)
  • cycle test

The ASFP endorses third-party certification in their ‘Advisory Note – ASFP position on Performance Smoke Seals in Active Fire Curtains Document’, saying, “any passive fire protection system… should be fully backed up by third-party certification for the manufactured product9.

And FIREX made it a condition of products being exhibited, “We took the decision last year [2022] to make it a condition of exhibiting at FIREX that any manufacturer who provided fire safety products… they needed a third-party approval of the products… we are very, very glued into and locked into third-party approval as a condition… we want visitors to understand that when they come to FIREX14 [emphasis added]

So, to recap, the only product standards with valid third-party certification for fire curtains are:

  • Vertical fire curtains – BS EN 16034
  • Concertina fire curtains – BS EN 16034
  • Horizontal fire curtains – ISO 21524*

* ISO 21524 is the only standard with third-party certification from a Notified Body that specifically covers horizontal fire curtains. As such, due to the unique and intricate design of horizontal fire curtains, we advocate only using ISO 21524 third-party certification for horizontal fire curtains, rather than just using a fire resistance test such as BS EN 1634-1:2014.

Whilst BS 8524 is no longer available with third-party certification, BS EN 16034 is available with third-party certification from the major Notified Bodies across Europe. These Notified Bodies are themselves accredited by UKAS or equivalent. This is the gold standard and ensures compliance which is why the industry say it is mandatory for life-safety products such as fire curtains. Having the product checked by an unbiased third-party is vital to ensuring all life-safety products have constancy of performance.

Important: Carefully examine the documentation accompanying the products to ensure that it originates from a reputable Notified Body rather than the manufacturer. Some paperwork may have been produced by a Notified Body on page one, but subsequent pages are generated to a similar style by the manufacturer, or vice versa. This could give the impression that the entire document originates from the Notified Body. Therefore, it is advisable to conduct due diligence and scrutinise the documentation.

If your fire curtain supplier works with Applus+ (Notified Body No. 0370), the third-party certification will come with a relatively detailed Technical Annexe including sizes tested and components used. This information is invaluable to the buyer in making sure what is purchased has actually been tested and certified.

The future of BS 8524?

There are two considerations.

Now, and in the future.

In the future, if BS 8524-1 achieves third-party certification again it can be considered safe for use for those types of fire curtains the new certification covers e.g. concertina and/ or horizontal.

However, let’s first look at the status quo (a lot can happen in the future that wasn’t planned, and the best made plans don’t always come to fruition).

Where are we today with BS 8524-1?

As it stands, without offering a route to compliance with the CPR for vertical fire curtains, and without being able to offer valid third-party certification, BS 8524-1 cannot be recommended for any fire curtains.

Whilst there are a couple of plus points to BS 8524-1, there are also a number of downsides to BS 8524-1, and quite a bit of cross-over with BS EN 16034 for the essential aspects of the standards.

It is not a question of, Do you want to pay for largely duplicate certification costs to use BS 8524-1 in an ancillary capacity, as there is a conflict between the standards. The benefits of BS 8524 can be obtained without BS 8524. There is more on this in the ‘Pros and cons’ section in our white paper ‘A technical comparison of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524’2.

In the future…

Lets consider the scenario where BS 8524-1 is successfully revised in the future and achieves the backing of a Notified Body, and third-party certification is again available for it; could we then use BS 8524-1 on its own?

Well, the answer is, No, for vertical fire curtains; vertical fire curtains have to be CE marked to BS EN 16034.

The answer is also likely, No, for horizontal fire curtains as these are a very niche market and there may not be enough demand to commercially justify a Notified Body developing a BS 8524 scheme for them.

This leaves concertina fire curtains as the only configuration of fire curtain that could potentially be used for BS 8524-1 on its own, even when the new and revised BS 8524-1 is available and a scheme has been created and accredited and certification has been undertaken.

Also to consider is an indefinite timeline involved in new third-party certification for BS 8524 becoming available:

1. The new (revised) BS 8524 has to be created and published (could be months or more)

2. After this, a scheme would need to be created by a Notified Body for the new BS 8524. This will take months further, or more

3. After this, manufacturers will have to have their products certified again, including taking any additional or expired tests. This could take months, or more, again.

It should be noted that if BS 8524-1 is revised and a new scheme with third-party certification from a Notified Body becomes available again, it will be different to the existing BS 8524-1.

As such, we would argue it is misleading to sell products to the current BS 8524-1 standard on the basis that “BS 8524-1 will be third-party certified again” – because BS 8524-1 as it stands will not be third-party certified again. If anything is, it will be a new revised BS 8524-1.

BS 9999

BS 8524 is referred to in guidance BS 9999:2017, the code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings. However, since BS 9999 was published:

1. BS EN 16034 was harmonised, and remains the only harmonised standard for fire curtains; and

2. BS 8524 third-party certification was withdrawn.

It is pertinent to note that Richard Millett KC, Lead Counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, in his closing statements, referred to ‘outdated guidance’: ‘Behind all of these discrete factors there lay complex, opaque, and piecemeal legislation and an overreliance by law and policy makers 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’ (emphasis added).

As we can see, BS 9999:2017 is outdated in at least the two aspects denoted above.

Regarding the latter highlighted point in the Richard Millet extract, fire curtains being sold without third-party certification would put fire safety in the hands of commercial interests. There would be no UKAS or equivalent accredited Notified Body carrying out FPC, paperwork auditing, checks and assurance that makes third-party certification so valuable and essential for a life-safety product.

There are other authorities as well as the ASFP who state the importance of third-party certification, such as the Fire Industry Association’s ‘Guide to the UK Fire Safety Industry 2022-2023’ article on company third-party certification in the fire industry.

6. BSi National foreword in BS EN 16034

BSI has added a National foreword to their publication of BS EN 16034 and this has raised some questions. Here we seek to answer those questions.

The National foreword that BSI put on their published copy of BS EN 16034 is not part of the harmonised standard, being guidance only. The BSI National Committee B/538 that wrote that National foreword on BS EN 16034 is largely the same members that created BS 8524-1. The harmonised standard foreword is what is legally required, the BSI foreword is guidance, and comes with the warning in bold, Compliance with a British Standard cannot confer immunity from legal obligations’. ‘Legal obligations’ includes compliance with the CPR for construction products as evidenced by CE marking where a product is ‘covered’ by a harmonised standard. The CE marking must be to the applicable harmonised standard, and the recommended evidence of this CE marking is a Certificate of Constancy of Performance (CoCoP) from a Notified Body. This is in contrast to a Declaration of Performance (DoP) from the manufacturer which is a self-declaration. 

The National foreword in BS EN 16034 refers to BS 8524.

The text says, “This standard [BS EN 16034] 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″

First, lets look at ‘operation deployment speeds’.

These are not unique to BS 8524-1, being also referred to in product standard ISO 21524. For example, ISO 21524, clause 7.4.1 states, “The active fire curtain shall commence deployment within 10s of receipt of an initiation signal and move to its fire-operational position in all operating modes. The active fire curtains shall have a velocity of not less than 0.03m/s. Within 2.0 m of floor level, the velocity shall be not more than 0.15m/s for vertical deployment or 0.3m/s for horizontal deployment”

ISO 21524 is an excellent product standard for fire curtains and Adexon Fire & Smoke use it for horizontal fire curtains. Unfortunately, as with BS 8524-1, ISO 21524 is not a harmonised standard and hence cannot offer legal compliance to the Construction Products Regulations for vertical fire curtains, hence limiting its use.

Operation deployment speeds are also covered in harmonised standard 12101-1 for smoke curtains, clause 5.4, “Active smoke barrier types ASB1 and ASB2… shall… move… at a velocity range of between 0.06m/s and 0.3m/s” and “Active smoke barrier types ASB3 and ASB4… shall have a velocity range of 0.06m/s and 0.15m/s”.

Adhering to these guidelines is achieved by designing the motors with a maximum operating speed of 0.3 m/s or 0.15m/s as required, and factory programming the Control Panels.

With regards to ‘initiation devices or warning devices, etc.’, BS 8524 requires ancillary equipment (obstruction warning devices, switches, and activation devices) to be physically tested to ensure they function as expected; this test is not performed under any heat and is conducted in a laboratory setting.

The value and benefits of this laboratory testing are open to debate, as the components used are themselves CE marked and it is the actual on-site installation of the ancillary equipment by the engineer that is critical and must be checked to ensure functionality.

What is the difference between the forewords in the BSi publication of BS EN 16034?

As already mentioned, BSI has added a National foreword in their publication of BS EN 16034.

The main difference is that the National foreword is NOT part of the harmonised standard that comes under the Construction Products Regulations, whereas the foreword in the harmonised standard is.

The foreword of the harmonised standard existed before the BSi publication added the National foreword. The harmonised standard’s own foreword has priority. As an example, 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.

7. BS EN 16034 refers to retail premises in its scope

What about fire curtains outside of a retail application?

We had this question from the audience at our talk in the Innovation & Regulation Theatre at the Fire Safety Event on 27th April 2023. The talk was titled, “Fire curtain compliance in the UK: The status quo of BS 8524 and BS EN 16034”.15

To get the answer we need to read the standard [BS EN 16034] in more depth. If you read the scope you will see it says “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… etc…. OR
  • rolling shutters… etc… OR
  • pedestrian doorsets… etc…” and so on. [capitalisation added]

Without re-typing out the whole standard here (we always recommend checking the original text yourself) it goes on to give definitions in section 3:

  • A “doorset” is defined as a whole 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” is defined as a “doorset with leaf constructed from woven material… which functions as a rolling shutter”.

We can see here that 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 description clearly covers vertical 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’ comprising side guides and a curtain that wraps around a barrel in a headbox, and both 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 standard is dealing with the “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”.

It can be seen the author is seeking to include a description to provide cover for ‘doors’ (or ‘doorsets’) with similar characteristics. What is plain is that a ‘doorset’ includes fire curtains, and a pedestrian doorset, therefore, includes fire curtains within the reach of persons. Language (English or any other) is plain in the use of ‘either’, ‘or’, and commas; a single term is relevant in isolation without being dependant on any other term, much like contracts will invariably say ‘should one clause be unenforceable it shall not render any other clauses unenforceable’.

Accordingly, it is accurate to say the definition for a ‘doorset’ in BS EN 16034 is a “rolling shutter and/ or operable fabric curtain including any frame or guide” or “rolling or folding curtain”. It is true to read this singularly like this.

Obviously a ‘doorset’ includes many other products too.

BS 8524 fire test reports to BS EN 1634-1 also confirm ‘fire curtains’ and ‘operable fabric curtains’ are synonymous terms in the standards, the test reports being titled, “…for operable fabric curtains”.

As such, BS EN 16034 covers vertical fire curtains within the reach of persons.

8. Need there be any uncertainty?

In BSI’s National foreword in BS EN 16034, they include the bold warning, “Compliance with a British Standard cannot confer immunity from legal obligations”.

‘Legal obligations’ includes compliance with the Construction Products Regulations (CPR) for construction products as evidenced by CE marking to the harmonised standard, from a Notified Body.

The CPR requires a “construction product to have CE marking… if… it is covered by…a harmonised European product standard”.

So the acid test is, is the product covered by a harmonised standard?

If it is, it is legally required to CE mark to that harmonised standard. The penalty for breach is imprisonment or a fine.

CEN TC 33 WG5 have confirmed that ‘guided fabric curtains’ are in the Scope of BS EN 13241 which covers the safety aspects of a range of doors. BS EN 13241 doesn’t cover fire and smoke characteristics, so it wasn’t until the harmonisation of BS EN 16034 that fire resistant vertical ‘guided fabric curtains’ were covered.

After BS EN 16034 was recited in OJEU in Oct 2016 there was a three-year ‘coexistence’ period during which other older standards could still be used for vertical fire curtains alongside BS EN 16034 used in conjunction with BS EN 13241. This ended on 1st November 2019 and since that date it has been a legal requirement to CE mark vertical fire curtains with side guides to BS EN 13241 in conjunction with BS EN 16034 and to withdraw conflicting national standards.

The law and the regulations are clear and any attempts to create uncertainty are unhelpful to those seeking to comply with their legal responsibilities. However, if further clarification is required we would suggest speaking to the higher authorities i.e. a Notified Body such as Applus+ (Notified Body Nr. 0370). For example, Applus+ have a third-party certification scheme for CE marking fire curtains to BS EN 16034. In turn, this scheme is accredited by ENAC (akin to UKAS), which is the gold standard. Applus+ also published an article on the subject in July 2018, ‘New CE Marking for fabric fire curtains’7.

It is possibly due to the commercial investment in BS 8524 in the UK and the related marketing, that there has been a lack of awareness around BS EN 16034 here in the UK.

Indeed, if you analyse the advertising efforts of others in the marketplace since BS EN 16034 became harmonised on 1st November 2019 you will find over 30 articles promoting BS 8524 without one mentioning BS EN 16034. Quite a statistic in the context that BS EN 16034 is legally required since that date for vertical fire curtains, but one that shows the industry’s leaning in the UK.

It is only since Adexon Fire & Smoke Curtains first published this white paper in the Autumn of 2022 that others in the industry in this country have really started to acknowledge BS EN 16034. We published it in response to market feedback and a large number of people not knowing about the legal requirements. If we had realised it was being overlooked to such an extent we would have filled the void earlier but since Grenfell, we had been very focused on product development (coming up with “the UK’s premier design of fire curtain”)18, third-party testing and certification, and getting on with our day-to-day business.

So, to answer the question raised by the section heading, There need not be any uncertainty around the legal requirement to CE mark vertical fire curtains to BS EN 16034 since 1st November 2019. 

  • CEN TC33 WG5 confirm that ‘guided fabric curtains’ are in the Scope of BS EN 13241 and the subsequent harmonisation of BS EN 16034 means fire resistant vertical ‘guided fabric curtains’ are covered.
  • After BS EN 16034 was recited in OJEU in Oct 2016 there was a three-year ‘coexistence’ period during which other older standards could still be used for vertical fire curtains. This ended on 1st November 2019 and since that date it has been a legal requirement to CE mark vertical fire curtains with side guides to BS EN 13241 in conjunction with BS EN 16034 and to withdraw conflicting national standards
  • The position taken by the Notified Bodies; and
  • CE marking for vertical fire curtains being available to BS EN 16034 (if it didn’t cover the product it couldn’t be available from a Notified Body).

9. Summary of key points to consider

Some key points from the above:

  • standards aren’t the same as regulations and following a standard doesn’t guarantee that you’re within the relevant laws1 (BSI)
  • Compliance with a British Standard cannot confer immunity from legal obligations’ (BSi)
  • 51% of architects say that liability when it comes to fire safety is one of the biggest challenges their company faces, with 43% constantly worried about liability when it comes to the specification of systems for fire safety3
  • The government guidance on the ‘Construction Products Regulations’ “includes requirements for construction product to have CE marking… if… it is covered by…a harmonised European product standard…6
  • A person who supplies a construction product… shall be guilty of an offence unless… the product has affixed to it the CE marking13
  • A person guilty of an offence under this regulation shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment… or to a fine13
  • BS EN 16034 is the only harmonised standard available to CE mark fire curtains to.
  • The acid test as to whether a product shall be CE marked is whether it is ‘covered’ by a harmonised European product standard.
  • As such, with CE marking available for vertical fire curtains to BS EN 16034, it is quite clear that vertical fire curtains are ‘covered’ by BS EN 16034. Notified Bodies such as Applus+ providing CE marking to BS EN 16034 for vertical fire curtains is evidence the standard ‘covers’ vertical fire curtains. This CE marking is in turn accredited by Accreditation Bodies akin to UKAS (e.g. ENAC) which is the gold standard.
  • To keep BS 8524 legal for vertical fire curtains on its own after 1st November 2019, one would have to argue that BS EN 16034 didn’t cover (fire curtains).
  • On reading the full scope of BS EN 16034 it is clear that it covers all vertical fire curtains within the reach of persons.
  • This is confirmed by CEN TC33 WG5 who state that ‘guided fabric curtains’ are in the Scope of BS EN 13241. The harmonisation of BS EN 16034 means fire resistant vertical ‘guided fabric curtains’ are covered.
  • After BS EN 16034 was recited in OJEU in Oct 2016 there was a three-year ‘coexistence’ period during which other older standards could still be used for vertical fire curtains. This ended on 1st November 2019 and since that date it has been a legal requirement to CE mark vertical fire curtains with side guides to BS EN 13241 in conjunction with BS EN 16034 and to withdraw conflicting national standards.
  • To say vertical fire curtains are not covered by BS EN 16034 would mean differentiating between vertical fire curtains and fire shutters, two products that are essentially the same (there is no debate about fire shutters coming under BS EN 16034).
  • It is clear that the only use for BS 8524 after 1st November 2019 is for horizontal fire curtains and concertina fire curtains. All vertical fire curtains supplied since this date must legally be CE marked to BS EN 16034 regardless of other tests or certification.
  • As it stands, without offering a route to compliance with the CPR for vertical fire curtains, and without being able to offer valid third-party certification for any fire curtains, BS 8524-1 cannot be recommended for use.
  • Where you are advised to buy fire curtains that do not comply with the CPR.
    Ask for indemnity, backed by an AAA-rated insurer, against adverse consequences
  • Where you are concerned about fire curtains you have installed or purchased since 1st November 2019 not complying with the law.
    Refer to the government guidance on the ‘EU Construction Products Regulation and CE marking, including UK product contact point for construction products’8
  • Where you are in the predicament of having placed orders for products you are concerned about.
    Evaluate whether installing something non-compliant is worse than having to U-turn on existing procurement.
  • BS 8524 and BS EN 16034 both cover fire curtains and as such BS 8524 comes in the category of ‘conflicting national standards’ referred to in the harmonised standard foreword of the BSi publication of BS EN 16034. They are not complimentary standards.
  • International Fire Consultants (IFC) and Warringtonfire have withdrawn from offering third-party certification to BS 8524.
  • ASFP say, “any passive fire protection system… should be fully backed up by third-party certification for the manufactured product9.
  • FIREX say, “We took the decision last year [2022] to make it a condition of exhibiting at FIREX that any manufacturer who provided fire safety products… they needed a third-party approval of the products… we are very, very glued into and locked into third-party approval as a condition…”14
  • There is an indefinite timeline involved in new third-party certification for BS 8524 becoming available:
    • The new (revised) BS 8524 has to be created and published (could be months or more)
    • After this, a scheme would need to be created by a Notified Body for the new BS 8524. This will take months further, or more
    • After this, manufacturers will have to have their products certified again, including taking any additional or expired tests. This could take months, or more, again.
  • The last remaining third-party certification for BS 8524 expired on 9th June 2023. Whilst it may become available again, it isn’t currently, the industry is unanimous there will be a gap. What no one knows is how long this gap will be. It could be months, it could be over a year or more. During this gap, anyone could claim they have passed some or all of the applicable tests and sell non-certified BS 8524 fire curtains. How will they perform? Where will insurance sit on the matter? What legacy liability could accumulate?
  • Since BS 9999 was published:
    • BS EN 16034 was harmonised,
    • BS 8524 third-party certification was withdrawn
    • Lead Counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, in his closing statements, referring to contributory factors, referred to ‘outdated guidance’

As we can see, BS 9999:2017 is outdated in at least the two aspects denoted above.

10. Conclusion

The CPR mandates construction products covered by a harmonised standard to be CE marked to that harmonised standard.

BS EN 16034 is the only harmonised standard available for fire curtains. It was harmonised on 1st November 2019. With CE marking available to BS EN 16034, it is quite clear that vertical fire curtains are covered by BS EN 16034.

It is clear that the only use for BS 8524 after 1st November 2019 is for concertina fire curtains and horizontal fire curtains. All vertical fire curtains supplied since this date must legally be CE marked to BS EN 16034 regardless of other tests or certification.

The only product standards with valid third-party certification available for fire curtains are:

  • Vertical fire curtains – BS EN 16034
  • Concertina fire curtains – BS EN 16034
  • Horizontal fire curtains – ISO 21524*

There is an inherent and serious risk in buying or specifying construction products that do not comply with the CPR. For example, “A person guilty of an offence under this regulation [the CPR] shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment… or to a fine”13.

Since the CPR came into force on 1st July 2013, everyone in the supply chain has a duty of care responsibility, whether buying, selling, specifying, approving, or installing.

Secondary significant risks are complaints raised by consumers as to a product not being legally compliant; could this lead to insurance companies withdrawing fire cover for the asset and/ or could the consumer sue for damages due to latent defects? Could products have to be replaced and a building be closed whilst that work is carried out?

The last remaining third-party certification for BS 8524 expired on 9th June 2023. Whilst it may become available again, there will be a gap. No one knows how long this gap will be. It could be months, or it could be over a year or more. What are the risks of buying non-certified BS 8524 fire curtains? How will they perform? Where will insurance sit on the matter?

What are the accruing legacy risks of not using legally compliant and third-party certified life-safety products in construction?

In summary, vertical fire curtains are covered by BS EN 16034 for all common applications and, thus, being a construction product that fall under the CPR, they must legally be CE (or UKCA) marked to the harmonised standard (BS EN 16034). Further, it is best practice for life-safety products (all configurations of fire curtains) to always be third-party certified to a product standard by a Notified Body.

This white paper was written by the team at Adexon Fire & Smoke in October 2022 (revised 28th June 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 online20 (or contact us).

And/ or keep up to date on regulations and standards around fire curtains with our ‘Fire Safety Insights monthly newsletter21.

11. Additional reading

For a deep dive comparison of BS 8524 and BS EN 16034, read our white paper ‘A technical comparison of BS EN 16034 and BS 8524’2

For an example of going above and beyond legal compliance, read, ‘Are cold smoke seals in fire curtains a cause for concern?’10

If you are interested in impact testing, read why the design of the fabric retention and the durability of fire curtain designs is paramount, ‘Fabric retention design on fire curtains – why does it matter?’11

12. References

1 Standards and regulation BSI. Available at: https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/standards/Information-about-standards/standards-and-regulation/#:~:text=It%20certainly%20speaks%20volumes%20about,the%20lifetime%20of%20the%20standard.

2 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/.

3 Fire safety liability is one of the biggest challenges for most architects, study finds (2023) Roofing Cladding & Insulation Magazine (RCI). Available at: https://rcimag.co.uk/news/fire-safety-liability-is-one-of-the-biggest-challenges-for-most-architects-study-finds.

4 Insurer not required to pay for fire where sprinkler was off (no date) Business Insurance. Available at: https://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20230301/NEWS06/912355911/Insurer-not-required-to-pay-for-fire-where-sprinkler-was-off-Frankenmuth-Mutual- .

5 London leaseholders take legal action against building owner over fire safety defect (2023) International Fire & Safety Journal. Available at: https://internationalfireandsafetyjournal.com/london-leaseholders-take-legal-action-against-building-owner-over-fire-safety-defect/ .

6 Construction products regulation in Great Britain (no date) GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/construction-products-regulation-in-great-britain#:~:text=and%20other%20stakeholders-,Supplying%20construction%20products%20to%20the%20GB%20market,as%20retained%20in%20UK%20law.

7 Applus+ (2018) New CE marking for fabric fire curtains, https://www.applus.com. Available at: https://www.applus.com/global/en/news/new-ce-marking-for-fabric-fire-curtains .

8 EU Construction Products Regulation and CE marking, including UK product contact point for construction products (2013) GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-construction-products-regulation-and-ce-marking-including-uk-product-contact-point-for-construction-products.

9 ASFP Advisory note 31 – Association for Specialist Fire Protection – ASFP. Available at: https://asfp.org.uk/store/viewproduct.aspx?id=21281283.

10 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/.

11 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/.

12 Participation, E. The Construction Products Regulations 2013, Legislation.gov.uk. Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/1387/regulation/2 (Accessed: 30 June 2023).

13 Participation, E. The Construction Products Regulations 2013, Legislation.gov.uk. Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/1387/regulation/4 (Accessed: 30 June 2023).

14 FIREX (no date) FIREX Exhibiting Conditions, Zoho . Available at: https://workdrive.zoho.eu/file/3q7231640a50bd0f64065aef44db920317d76.

15 Devenish, C. (2023) Another excellent question from the audience at our talk, ‘Fire curtain compliance in the UK: The status quo of BS 8524 and BS EN, Charles Devenish on LinkedIn Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7059800319966220288?updateEntityUrn=urn%3Ali%3Afs_feedUpdate%3A%28V2%2Curn%3Ali%3Aactivity%3A7059800319966220288%29 .

16 ASFP TGD 21 – Revision of CE UKCA advisory note – association for … , ASFP Technical Guidance Documents. Available at: https://asfp.org.uk/store/viewproduct.aspx?id=19779951 .

17 GNB-CPR-SG06 is the Group of Notified Bodies for the Construction Products Regulations (No. 305/2011/EU), Steering Group 06, for door and windows

18 Devenish, C. (2023) ‘Active fire curtains’; your reaction?, Charles Devenish on LinkedIn: ‘Active fire curtains’; your reaction? Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/charles-devenish-333670260_we-had-a-lot-of-people-at-firex-and-at-the-activity-7067478452945211393-WrZ2?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop .

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

20 RIBA accredited CPD course (2024) Adexon. Available at: https://www.adexon-uk.com/riba-accredited-cpd-course/ (Accessed: 08 July 2024).

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