BASEC Urges Contractors not to Cut Costs on Safety

As the Government launches a fundamental review on all capital spending, Dr Jeremy Hodge, Chief Executive of the British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) urges specifiers and contractors, who will have increased cost pressures, to take a best value approach and not cut costs on important fire, safety and emergency systems in buildings.

As reported in the Financial Times this month, George Osborne, the chancellor, plans to slash public sector spending. This includes plans for new and improved schools and council buildings, meaning every project, including some already in the pipeline, will face scrutiny.
In particular, the Buildings Schools for the Future program has been cancelled leaving many construction companies in limbo, having invested millions on the cost of bidding for projects.  Councils and schools also have no clear idea when or if hopes of new modern buildings will go ahead and what they can expect to be done to improve and maintain their existing buildings.
In light of these cuts, there will be many existing schools in need of maintenance. Although aesthetics of a building is important to the occupier, it is the hidden electrical circuits and cabling that can impose a serious problem if they are not upgraded sufficiently or of adequate quality for its purpose. This is particularly important if the school is a new ‘free school’ and based in a converted shop or a disused building where it may not have an adequate system in place to cope with the increased electricity demands a school would bring.
For new buildings that do go ahead, contractors have a difficult task of delivering a new school or council building with a severely limited budget. Procurement departments need to take a best value approach by prioritising safety above aesthetics and not be tempted to go for the cheapest option of cabling or systems and risk having to replace them. By investing in quality cabling and circuits, the specifier can have confidence in the longevity and performance of the system which could last 30-50 years. In terms of cables, it is important to always look for a manufacturer's mark that you recognise, which can be helpful in tracing a cable through the supply chain. For peace of mind, you should insist on an independent third-party approved cable with either a BASEC, HAR or equivalent mark and specify on your order the British Standard (BS) number the cable must comply with.
Most public sector buildings now use low smoke, halogen free cabling rather than PVC – this should not be reversed to save costs. Unlike some other cables, when exposed to flame, low smoke cables do not produce toxic smoke and corrosive gas, so can provide critical protection to people and equipment.
For all projects always ensure you use a registered contractor and electrician. Don’t forfeit experience and knowledge to help your bottom line. When budgets are being squeezed, ensure all electrical systems are compliant to specification and relevant standards – it’s a small price to pay for reassurance.

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