The government has set out proposals to make buildings safer including mandating second staircases for new tower blocks and sprinkler systems for new care homes.
This is the latest step in updating the statutory guidance that underpins building regulations for new buildings to guarantee the safety of those living and working there. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will consult on its plans over the next 10 weeks.
These include “imposing rules on staircases, which would mean new tower blocks over 30 metres will need to have more than one staircase”.
The department is also looking at mandating sprinklers in all new care homes, regardless of height, to improve the safety of vulnerable residents and help firefighters with evacuations.
Lee Rowley, minister for local government and building safety, said: “There are undoubtedly lessons still to be learnt from the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the Department for Housing is committed to working with the sector and residents to explore what more needs to be done to make new homes across the country safe.
“This consultation is the next step in the department’s work to improve building regulations and make sure they are as clear and effective as possible.”
Call for evidence
Other measures being considered as part of the consultation include removing references to the national classifications (BS 476) from Approved Document B. This means the dual system currently in place will end and construction product manufacturers will be required to test their products to the British standard version of the European Standards.
The government will also be undertaking a call for evidence on revisions to Approved Document B covering materials and products used in external walls. In practice, the call for evidence will seek views from the industry on what materials should be covered and how best to improve the clarity of the guidance provided in these paragraphs.
Since the Grenfell Tower fire, the department has undertaken the task of updating and improving fire safety guidance to prevent it from happening again. The department has already made several significant changes to the Building Regulations and its guidance. Since 2017 the department has:
- Implemented a ban on combustible materials for residential buildings, hospitals and student accommodation above 18 metres high and provided new guidance for residential buildings between 11 metres to 18 metres high.
- Banned the use of metal composite materials of the type used in Grenfell Tower on all buildings
- Undertook a large programme of work to clarify the guidance.
- Lowered the threshold for the provision of sprinklers in new blocks of flats from 30 metres-plus to 11 metres-plus.
- Made provisions for wayfinding signage for firefighters in new blocks of flats more than 11 metres in height.
- Made provisions for evacuation alert systems in new residential buildings over 18 metres in height.