NEW FIRE SAFETY REGULATIONS come into effect today, 23 January 2023, introducing several requirements in law to make buildings safer.
Landlords, owners, management companies and anyone else responsible for multi-occupied residential buildings are now legally required to follow specific fire safety measures, depending on the height of the building.
A ‘responsible person’ will need to provide residents with fire safety instructions and information on the importance of fire doors. They are also required to provide information to Fire and Rescue Services to help them respond if there is a fire.
Additionally, as part of more changes to Approved Document B, the UK Government has launched a consultation on developers being made to install a second staircase in all new housing blocks over 30 metres tall, and sprinklers in all new care homes whatever the building height. Existing changes introduced a ban on combustible materials.
Steve Callow, Housing Manager at MPA Masonry which represents the UK’s concrete and aircrete block manufacturers said, “The new regulations are a welcome step forward and will push housebuilders and developers to demonstrate best practice, and certify all building products used in residential construction are safe within the specified system.
“It’s clear we need to adopt a more Safety-first approach to the way we build and, hopefully, these tougher regulations do just that. I hope it will finally put an end to value engineering and create a far more robust framework for fire inspection. I hope it will also make developers think carefully about the types of materials used.”
Following the numerous changes in building and fire and life safety, Andy Lowe, Technical and Training Director at Bureau Veritas, said: “All of this has a significant impact on duty holders of multi-occupied high-rise buildings, from the architects who draw up the plans and the developers who build, to the landlords or building owners responsible for maintaining a safe and compliant environment.
“A key outcome of the Building Safety Act for architects and developers stresses the need to get things right first time. The impending Gateway Two will signify a stop/go point, where anything not done correctly in the planning and design process will cause delays and more time and resource from the developer to revise plans and re-submit them.
“It’s clear the landscape is changing vastly, and quickly. With the potential introduction of the two staircase rule, updates to sprinkler requirements in care homes, the combustible materials ban as part of recent changes to Part B and the increasing need for fire safety precautions in e-vehicle and e-bike charging; architects, contractors, design and build managers and more are facing increasingly difficult day to day changes.
New Fire Safety Regulations
Some of the regulations apply regardless of height, but more are needed once a building reaches 11 metres and further requirements are introduced when a building measures 18 metres and above, or 7 storeys.
For high-rise buildings of 18 metres or above, the responsible person has a legal duty to provide the Fire Service with information to help firefighters, including sharing up-to-date floor plans, both electronically and on-site in secure information boxes, which highlights key firefighting equipment.
They will also need to share information about the design and materials of the building’s external walls, identifying any risks posed and mitigating measures taken, and report any faults with firefighting equipment that will take longer than 24 hours to rectify.
For residential buildings with storeys over 11 metres in height, the responsible person is required to do annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common areas.
In all residential buildings with two or more domestic premises, it is now the law to provide relevant fire safety instructions to residents, as well as fire door advice.
Additionally, signage needs to be installed that identifies flat and floor numbers in stairwells, which is visible in low light or smoky conditions.
The regulations have been introduced under article 24 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (Fire Safety Order), to implement the majority of recommendations made to the government in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report.