There is still no common standard on roof access products and the regulations are still quite vague. This makes it imperative for manufacturers to share their knowledge through initiatives such as Bilco Assist, says James Fisher, Managing Director of Bilco.
The roof hatch can still be specified by the architect, the main contractor, the M&E contractor or even the roofing contractor; so no real expertise has been accumulated by anyone. That expertise still rests with the manufacturers. Over the years, countless architects and builders have asked us for advice when unsure what to specify; so we decided to make this service official in the form of Bilco Assist and we believe other manufacturers should do the same.
Architects often draw a square because they know there must be a roof hatch, but it isn’t an actual specification. Sometimes it can be interpreted as one, triggering a commission for a costly bespoke product where an off the shelf solution would have served the purpose perfectly well. Those who ask for help early on benefit in terms of cost, as well as safety and longevity.
Roof access products require careful consideration and high quality construction. They must stand up to considerable wind speeds and must be able to stay open when required, both to safeguard the user and to prevent costly, even irreparable, damage. Specification should be influenced by use, especially if intended for regular maintenance access. Roof hatches should allow operatives to move safely through them, so it is advisable to add a LadderUp safety post, which allows the user to maintain three points of contact with the ladder when entering and exiting the hatch. It is always a good idea to include a fixed ladder over a moveable one if possible.
If you need smoke ventilation alone, a Natural Smoke and Heat Ventilator (NSHEV), which must by law now be CE marked, should be installed. This too can be a bespoke product or a standard size, so it is sensible to take advice when specifying.
Our technical department often gives guidance at the earliest possible stage to avoid any costly mistakes, but Bilco Assist is not just about waiting for calls from specifiers. We proactively provide CPD seminars so that there can be a greater dissemination of the principles of good specification of access products and we’re equally happy to carry out a site visit. In addition, we provide plenty of information online, including full CAD drawings of our products, together with Building Information Modelling data. We provide a link to the relevant NBS Building specification, which gives detailed information on the individual product; this can help to create an accurate project specification as it gives you precise rather than generic information.
Naturally, our product pages include installation instructions, product data sheets and submittal drawings, all available for download from the relevant product page. We believe that all manufacturers should do this.
Ideally, expertise in specifying roof access products will now grow. Until that happens, Bilco Assist will be here to help.
This article appeared as the cover story for the April 2015 issue of Building & Facilities Management.