The government is under pressure to introduce independent safety reviews for buildings as a response to last year's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
A report launched by civil and structural engineers on the anniversary of 11 September calls for safety audits when a building is first constructed, followed by periodic reviews throughout its life.

Gordon Masterton, managing director of Babtie's facilities business arm, co-wrote the report. He said: "There should be third-party certification throughout the entire life of a building, reviewing the safety systems."

At present, fire certificates have to be obtained by commercial building owners from the fire brigade. The report recommends that engineers award an expanded certificate covering all elements of safety, including contamination of air-conditioning in the event of a biological or chemical attack.

A copy of the report, which also recommends fitting escape routes with standby power and smoke-protection devices, has been sent to the government.

A review of the fire-safety certification scheme is currently out for public consultation. This recommends a self-certification system for building owners, which would be checked for validity by local fire brigades. This would save businesses about £1.7m a year.

There should be third-party certification throughout the entire life of a building

Gordon Masterton, report co-author

Jeremy Hodge, director of research at BRE, said the self-certification scheme would force owners to examine evacuation design in their buildings. For example, the government recommends phased evacuation in the event of fire, but is considering updating this to allow for the need for mass evacuation – which would force clients to change the design of a building.

John Haddon, director of Arup's security division, said that three items of safety procedure and design had emanated from last year's attacks.

He said: "First: general security. People are now more concerned about who is in their building. Second: blast engineering – the robustness of facades against explosive devices and bomb shelter areas. And third: protection against bio-chemical attack. We've developed a risk-based methodology. Most clients are going for good practice measures – simple things such as controlling where the air intake is."

Haddon added that Arup had developed a carbon-filter system to defend against bio-chemical attacks, but this has not been taken up by any of their clients.