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RIBA demands end of Desktop Studies for Fire Safety

RIBA demands end of Desktop Studies for Fire Safety

10 May 2018

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published its response to the Government’s consultation on the use of ‘desktop studies’ to certify fire safety regulatory compliance, ahead of the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report on the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

The RIBA is extremely concerned that the government may continue to allow the use of desktop studies, simply rebranding them “assessments in lieu of test.” Desktop studies have been a significant contributing factor in the regulatory failure revealed by the retrospective cladding testing programme introduced after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Immediate Past President of RIBA and Chair of the RIBA’s Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, Jane Duncan says:

“The proposed assessment in lieu of a full fire safety test suggested by the Government’s consultation is effectively no better than renaming a desktop study – simply a form of window dressing.

Dame Judith’s report is imminent – we strongly urge more significant change. This is a watershed moment – stronger prescriptive guidance is needed to provide clarity to the industry and most importantly, to protect the public.”

All successful building control systems around the world, including the International Building Code, rely on a significant element of prescriptive regulation and guidance. The RIBA is calling on Dame Judith Hackitt to recommend and the Government to implement the following baseline regulatory requirements:

  1. External walls of buildings over 18m in height to be constructed of non-combustible (European class A1) materials only
  2. More than one means of vertical escape from new multiple occupancy residential buildings over 11 metres high, consistent with current regulations for commercial buildings (which are arguably lower risk)
  3. Retro-fitting of sprinklers / automatic fire suppression systems to existing residential buildings above 18m from ground level in height as “consequential improvements” where an existing building is subject to 'material alterations'
  4. Sprinklers/automatic fire suppression systems in all new and converted residential buildings, as currently required under Regulations 37A and 37B of the Building Regulations for Wales

The full consultation can be found here.


Notes to editors

  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 +44 (0)20 7307 3761
  3. For more information on the Government’s Approved Document B (fire safety) consultation, see here.
  4. The RIBA will be hosting a fire safety conference, Protecting Lives: Design and Construction Post Grenfell, on 12 June, 9:30am to 5pm.
  5. 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. Follow us on Twitter for regular RIBA updates

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