Fire safety in our apartment blocks has been high on the agenda since the tragedy of Grenfell. After three years of review, debate and inquiry, building regulations in England are about to change; and are going to be stricter than many in the industry were expecting.
Approved Document Part B (which deals with fire safety) is being updated this November, and will apply to any building site where work hasn’t started before January 29th, 2021.
Sprinklers and wayfinding signs are going to be made mandatory on any apartment block where the top floor flats are higher than 11 metres above ground level.
This will apply to all blocks of flats that are four/five storeys tall and above. The current version of Part B sets the threshold at 30 metres (around eleven storeys), and the conclusions of the Hackitt Review (following the Grenfell fire) recommended this be reduced to 18 metres (around seven storeys).
The change means far more blocks of flats than previously thought will need to be fitted with sprinklers, and it means designers working on next year’s developments will need to update their plans to take into account the additional riser space and water tanks required to ensure such a system can be installed.
It also means smaller construction companies who have never had the need to consider sprinklers in their apartments until now will need to quickly review their upcoming projects to ensure they don’t fall foul of the new requirements.
This change to Part B doesn’t just apply to new builds – change of use projects and material alternations (on similar sized buildings) will also trigger the need for sprinkler systems to be installed.
This change only applies in England. In Wales every new dwelling, from the tallest skyscraper to the smallest bungalow, is required to have working sprinkler systems fitted as standard.
Energist is not a fire consultancy company, and cannot assist with further details on this article. Anyone with queries on this change to the Approved Documents is recommended to speak with a fire safety consultant.