Long before national building regulations, quality assurance or organised standards, fire insurers introduced the concept of third-party certification. The origins of such certifications and those under the LPCB brand are intertwined, as the following brief summary shows.
1860s — an association for insurers was set up called the Fire Offices’ Committee (FOC), to represent their loss prevention interests.
1880s — FOC launched its approved product list, with installation ’rules’ being added a few years later.
1935 — The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and the FOC, along with other interested parties, opened a central Fire Testing Station at Borehamwood in Hertfordshire.
1946 — DSIR and the FOC established the Joint Fire Research and Testing Organisation to conduct research on all aspects of fire prevention and extinguishing. In 1949 the Borehamwood site was renamed the Fire Research Station.
1975 — the Joint Fire Research and Testing Organisation was split into the government owned Fire Research Station, and the Fire Insurers Research and Testing Organisation (FIRTO).
1984 — FIRTO was combined with the FOC’s technical department, and the Insurers Technical Bureau to form the Loss Prevention Council (LPC) which later went on to develop a certification body called the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB). The FOC technical documents became Loss Prevention Council rules and standards, and the approval schemes became Loss Prevention Standards (LPS).
In 1921 a government-funded laboratory the Building Research Station (BRS) was formed, initially to investigate building materials and construction methods for new housing following World War I. Originally in Acton, BRS moved to Garston near Watford in 1925. BRE’s headquarters occupy this 72 acre site to this day.
In 1972, BRS was merged with the Forest Products Research Laboratory and the Fire Research Station (FRS) to form the Building Research Establishment (BRE) FRS didn’t physically move to BRE’s Watford site until 1994. In 1997 BRE was privatised.
To ensure that BRE remained a national resource after privatisation, and was never unduly influenced by any particular sector of the industry, the BRE Trust was set up to take ownership of the company. The Trust is a registered charity that includes a very wide range of representatives from industry and academia. All profits made by BRE and other members of the BRE Group are used to fund the Trust’s built environment research and education initiatives.
On privatisation BRE became independent of government ties and so was able to certify and approve products that it tested. A new company, BRE Certification was set up in 1999 to deliver these services separately from the consultancy activities of sister company BRE.
A year later, BRE Certification took over the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), reuniting the businesses that were separated in the 1970s. In 2006, with its services now recognised worldwide, BRE Certification was renamed BRE Global. Certification of fire and security products and services are now offered under the LPCB brand. Other aspects of environmental certification and rating, including BREEAM, were also brought under the BRE Global brand.