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Essential Updates – Building Regulations: Fire Safety

It’s not yet clear how the new Building Safety Regulator- as recommended in the government’s post-Grenfell report, ‘Building a Safer Future’ -will work with the existing framework of Building Control, CDM and Fire Service Consultation at Planning and Building Control stages. However, the Government appears to be committed to creating a Regulator who has real power to change attitudes in a similar way that the HSE have powers to stop work on site.

The weakness in the current system was highlighted in the opening statements of the Phase 2 Grenfell Tower enquiry, where each member of the refurbishment design and construction team only took responsibility for areas very specific to their discipline. The most influential change to the Fire Safety Regime will most likely be that there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities for individuals representing the Client, principal designer and principal contractor when building work is carried out.

This is likely to mean that specific training and qualification will be required for all parties working on High-Risk Residential Buildings (HRRB). Working parties are looking at this and it seems likely that some form of Card system will come into operation, where you can only work on HRRBs if you have got the relevant level of qualification/competence (e.g. level 4/5/6 would relate to building heights such as 11m/18/30m).

The results of last year’s sprinkler protection consultation are not yet known but the expectation is that a requirement for sprinklers for all new and converted residential buildings with a top floor level greater than 18m will be introduced into the Building Regulations towards the end of 2020.

Also in the wake of Grenfell, there has also been a proposal to require prominent signage at each floor level within the staircases and corridors of high rise buildings to assist Firefighters’ navigation.

Following the Barking flats fire in June 2019 that started on an external timber balcony and spread around the 5 storey building and into all the flats on the same elevation, the government have issued a proposal to reduce the height of relevant buildings defined under Regulation 7(2) ( so reducing the height for Class A2-s1, d0 wall construction ) from 18m to 11m. The consultation has not yet concluded but as the Barking fire and it seems likely that this will be introduced later this year or early 2021.

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