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RIBA responds to updated second staircase guidance

The Government's updated guidance sets an 18-metre height threshold for requiring second staircases in all new residential buildings in England, recognising RIBA's role in calling for this change.

04 April 2024

The Government has updated its guidance on second staircases in new tall residential buildings in England.  

Lee Rowley, Minister for Housing, said that the change in policy to set an 18-metre height threshold for second staircases in all new residential buildings ‘reflects views of experts including the National Fire Chiefs Council and Royal Institute of British Architects’.  

RIBA Chair of Board Jack Pringle said: 

“Almost seven years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government’s official guidance for second staircases in new residential buildings over 18 metres is welcome.  

This marks a crucial step towards a safer built environment for all. It falls short of requiring a second fire-fighting shaft, which our consultation response called for, or evacuation lifts, both of which are vital for emergency evacuation and fire-fighting operations. 

We continue to work with the Government and the wider construction industry to demand changes to deliver safer homes. Safety must be our number one priority.” 

Notes to editors: 

  1. Media contact:  
  2. 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 @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates. 
  3. In March 2023, RIBA and seven built environment bodies, fire safety organisations and disability rights groups signed a joint letter to Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP. The united call urged the Government to reduce the height threshold for more than one staircase in new residential buildings to 18 metres (approximately six storeys), from the government’s proposed 30 metres (approximately ten storeys). The letter was signed by:  

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) 

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)  

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)  

National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC)  

Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN)  

Disability Rights UK  

Inclusion London  

Claddag (Leaseholder Disability Action Group) 

  1. On 24 July 2023, the Government confirmed it would adopt an 18-metre height threshold for second staircases in all new residential buildings. In a huge win for RIBA’s cross-sector campaign, the Government noted that the new fire safety measure came in response to expert bodies’ united calls. 

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