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RIBA responds to government consultation on Approved Document B

Outdated building regulations and guidance fail to deliver fire safety – RIBA responds to government consultation

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has submitted evidence to the government’s technical consultation on Approved Document B, the building regulations guidance in England that covers fire safety matters within and around buildings.

In its response, the RIBA has reiterated its key recommendations to government for minimum prescriptive requirements to provide clarity for industry and most importantly, save lives.

  • Sprinklers – a requirement for sprinklers/automatic fire suppression systems to be provided in all new and converted residential buildings (as already required in Wales), and installed in existing residential buildings above 18m whenever significant refurbishment or alteration work is carried out.
  • Alternative means of escape – in new multiple occupancy residential buildings, a requirement for at least two staircases, offering alternative means of escape, where the top floor is more than 11m above ground level or more than three storeys above the ground level storey (as required for commercial buildings).
  • Centrally addressable fire alarms – a requirement for centrally addressable fire alarm systems in all new and converted multiple occupancy residential buildings and in existing residential buildings above 18m whenever significant refurbishment or alteration work is carried out.

The architects’ body has expressed concern that the technical guidance in Approved Document B has been developed assuming that measures to resist the spread of fire will be 100% effective and the “stay put” policy can be relied on. As the Grenfell Tower tragedy illustrates, if a fire spreads rapidly, a reliance on the “stay put” policy can be devastating.

The institute is therefore calling for at least two staircases in new multiple occupancy residential buildings as required already in offices and hotels, and being introduced in Scotland. The government must also prioritise the introduction of centrally addressable fire alarms, a requirement for sprinklers in all new and converted residential buildings, and the retro-fitting of sprinklers in existing residential buildings above 18m. Sprinklers are already a requirement in Wales and this issue is of growing concern to the industry and the public.

Jane Duncan, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety says, “We simply cannot allow buildings to continue to be built to regulations and guidance that everyone, including the government, acknowledges are deeply flawed. 20 months on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, to continue with more consultation but not enough action fails the public and does not honour the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

“All residents should have the right to the added protection offered by sprinkler systems, to know if a fire breaks out in their building, and to be safely evacuated if necessary. This means the guidance must change to ensure a better warning system and an alternative means of escape.”

Ends

Notes to editors:

See the RIBA consultation response for more information.

  1. For more information about how the RIBA has responded to the Grenfell Tower fire, see here.
  2. For further press information contact Elise Neve elise.neve@riba.org +44 (0)20 7307 3761
  3. Read the RIBA's full response.
  4. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. www.architecture.com. Follow us on Twitter for regular RIBA updates www.twitter.com/RIBA

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