The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) warned against a ‘failure to include’ escape provisions in new fire safety guidance, amid a series of other recommendations.
Last year, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire revealed the government had ‘clarified’ building regulation fire safety guidance, launched a consultation and was ‘seeking views on the revisions’ after taking on recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s review. A ‘full-scale review’ of Approved Document B (ADB) of the Building Regulations also began last autumn.
That technical review would assess ‘whether the underlying policy should be updated to reflect modern building practice, the latest understanding of fire risks and technical and scientific innovations’. It aimed to consult on ‘clarified guidance’ with the consultation, while a call for evidence was published ‘seeking views on the technical issues contained within the document’.
Recently, both London Fire Brigade and the National Fire Chiefs Council published their submissions, and Inside Housing reported on the submission from RIBA, in which the organisation ‘warned against a failure to include escape provisions’, and called for ‘extra measures’ to be included. In turn, it claimed that the changes to guidance made last year ‘did not include any provisions for occasions when the stay put policy has to be abandoned’.
RIBA’s submission statement read: ‘For too long government and the construction industry have relied on building design and construction that meets the regulatory requirements to resist the spread of fire, while the requirements for means of warning and escape and access and facilities for the fire service have been increasingly deprioritised in technical guidance over decades.
‘As it stands, the technical guidance in Approved Document B has been developed assuming that measures to resist the spread of fire will be effective and the stay put policy can be relied on, with no provision for when fire spreads beyond compartments and occupants need or chose to leave their flats.’
Expanding on this, it called on the government to focus on adding guidance for ‘enabling people to safely evacuate or be rescued’ from flats during a fire, and said that there should be ‘at least two’ staircases in new multiple occupancy residential buildings, which is already required for offices and hotels and which is being introduced in Scotland.
It also calls for the government to ‘prioritise’ introducing centrally addressable fire alarms that allow fire and rescue services to ‘quickly find which alarm has been activated’, and wants a requirement for sprinklers in all new and converted residential buildings, alongside retrofitting in existing residential buildings 18m or higher.
Jane Duncan, chair of RIBA’s expert advisory group on fire safety, commented: ‘We simply cannot allow buildings to continue to be built to regulations and guidance that everyone, including the government, acknowledges are deeply flawed.’