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Help inform the review of fire safety regulations

Help inform the review of fire safety regulations

31 August 2017

The Fire Sector Federation’s (FSF) national survey of the construction industry’s views on the future of Approved Document B (Fire Safety) has been extended into September, with the RIBA – as a FSF member organisation – calling on members to participate and help shape future policy.

Development of the survey, which is being conducted for the FSF by NBS Research, was already well advanced prior to the tragic events at Grenfell Tower. With policymakers and Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s Grenfell Tower Public Enquiry re-examining the adequacy of building and fire regulations, the survey results have now taken on additional importance.

The results will form the basis of the FSF’s submission to the DCLG to inform the Building Regulations review process headed by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Concrete facade

The survey is specifically seeking views on whether a review of Approved Document B is needed, whether the current technical scope and content is fit for purpose, and what improvements could be made. Views are also invited on how the Approved Document might be future-proofed to accommodate innovation and technological development in the built environment.

AHMM’s Paul Bussey, who sits on the FSF’s steering group as well as the RIBA Regulation & Standards Group and Jane Duncan’s Fire Expert Panel is in no doubt that Approved Document B needs a major overhaul.

He describes it as an overly complex and confusing document that even the experts have trouble navigating.

‘The regulations have evolved over time, but they are not really designed for the sequence of designing buildings,’ says Bussey.

‘We need to rationalise, simplify and make the Approved Document more prescriptive for base compliance, with the functional requirements still being met. Alternative fire engineered solutions need to be carefully considered to meet the base compliance criteria at least. Many elements of the document are also now outdated. As architects we have an opportunity to influence these documents so they actually support the design process.’

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the RIBA issued a Statement on Design for Fire Safety that included a call for the immediate commencement of the delayed formal review of Approved Document B, a review that had been recommended by the Coroner after the inquest into the deaths resulting from the 2009 fire at Lakanal House.

The RIBA called for the review of Approved Document B to be a comprehensive, transparent and fundamental reappraisal, rather than amendments or clarifications, which should begin without delay to remove uncertainty, provide clarity and protect public safety.

The Fire Sector Federation’s survey on Approved Document B is conducted by NBS Research and should take around ten minutes to complete. RIBA members who use or provide advice about the Approved Document are urged to participate and share their views.

In related developments, the terms of reference for the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, focusing on high rise buildings and chaired my Dame Judith Hackett, have been announced. You can find the terms here.

Thanks to Paul Bussey, Senior Technical Consultant, AHMM.

Text by Neal Morris. This is a ‘Practice News’ post edited by the RIBA Practice team. The team would like to hear your feedback and ideas for topics:

Posted on 31 August 2017.

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