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Legislative changes to Approved Document B come into force

10 December 2020

LEGISLATIVE CHANGES to Approved Document B covering fire safety-related matters within and around buildings came into force on Thursday 26 November and, although welcomed by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), the organisation is questioning whether or not the measures imposed actually go far enough.

The changes with regard to the mandatory installation of automatic fire sprinklers in England affect new build, material alteration, material change of use and extensions. The main points to note are as follows:

*the height threshold for the provision of sprinklers is now reduced from 30 metres down to 11 metres

*BS 9251 or BS EN 12845 continue to be recommended for sprinkler system installations in flats

*there will be no recommendation for sprinklers to be provided in common areas when these are ‘fire sterile’ (ie lacking in combustible materials)

*the new provisions will apply to extensions such that sprinkler protection and wayfinding signage will be necessary in any newly-formed accommodation in buildings with a floor that’s 11 metres or more above ground level

BAFSA questions whether the requirement should have been extended to all new buils flats, no matter the height of the structure inolved. Evidence has shown that automatic fire sprinklers protect residents of flats from fire. They limit fire spread, duly protecting means of escape for residents, while they also protect firefighters who attend such fires.

It’s also a proven fact, states BAFSA, that automatic fire sprinklers reduce property and contents damage from fire by extinguishing or controlling the fire in its early stages. This evidence applies equally to flats below 11 metres as well as those above that height. BAFSA has commented: “Perhaps this is an opportunity missed?”

BAFSA does concur with the view that this legislation will help to safeguard the lives of future building occupants and also help to preserve much-needed accommodation for the nation’s growing population.