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Government proposes second staircases to make buildings safer

  • Government considering rules to mandate second staircases in new residential buildings over 30m
  • Proposals also include sprinkler systems for all new care homes
  • Measures set out today will build on fire safety measures introduced since the Grenfell Tower tragedy

Buildings will be made safer under government proposals set out today (23 December), 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 which underpins building regulations for new buildings to ensure the safety of those living and working there. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will consult on its plans over the next 12 weeks.

They 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.

Minister for Local Government and Building Safety Lee Rowley 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.

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 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 of combustible materials for residential buildings, hospitals and student accommodation above 18m and provided new guidance for residential buildings between 11m-18m
  • Banned the use of Metal Composite Materials of the type used on Grenfell 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 30m+ to 11m+
  • Made provisions for wayfinding signage for fire fighters in new blocks of flats more than 11m
  • Made provisions for evacuation alert systems in new residential buildings over 18 metres in height

Source: GOV.UK