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Brigade outlines how to make buildings safer

05 March 2019

LONDON FIRE Brigade has outlined how the Government can make buildings safer in its response to the post Grenfell Tower fire consultation on Approved Document B (ADB) of the building regulations.

ADB sets the standards for building fire safety and is used to develop designs for many new and refurbished buildings. It covers everything from where sprinklers should be fitted and how buildings should be designed to limit fire spread to how to design fire service access and means of escape for disabled people.  

Outdated guidance

Deputy assistant commissioner Lee Drawbridge said, “The previous guidance was outdated and confusing and allowed for designers to short cut safety, for example we have received building designs where the plan for wheelchair users in the event of a fire is to wait in a toilet area, which we deem clearly unacceptable when considering the individual.

“It would be reckless to miss the opportunity for change to make our buildings safer for everyone but especially those who would struggle to escape a fire. Crucial measures we want to see in the guidance include ensuring sprinklers are installed in more buildings, suitable provisions to support people who may be vulnerable in a fire situation and stricter rules when refurbishing buildings.”

What the Brigade is calling for

In its submission to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the Brigade is calling for:

  • Automatic fire suppression systems to be fitted in a number of buildings including all purpose built blocks of flats (or all blocks over six storeys at the very least), all homes where vulnerable people live and all care homes and sheltered accommodation blocks. 

  • Appropriate means of escape in the event of a fire, especially for people who are disabled.

  • That the design of a building restricts the potential for external fire spread regardless of its height or use.

  • Clearer detail of the types of buildings the guidance can be applied to.

  • A full review of firefighting access and facilities, such as fire hydrants and firefighting lifts.

However, the Brigade is warning that whilst changes to ADB are crucial, the Government also needs to urgently address wider issues including the competency of all who use the guidance.

DAC Drawbridge continued, “Reviewing Approved Document B is just one aspect of a broken building regulation system.

“We want the Government to understand that making changes like the ban of combustible materials in the external walls of some buildings will not solve all the safety issues in buildings and serious consideration needs to be given to other measures including the competency of building designers, building control bodies and fire risk assessors.

“We would also urge the Government to commit to a regular review of the guidance to incorporate new research as it becomes available so that the guidance evolves with new understanding of how buildings and materials perform in fire.”

In the last few weeks, as part of its ongoing campaign on building safety, the Brigade has lobbied for its campaign to push for the inclusion of sprinklers in more buildings.