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NFCC submits recommendations to Government

05 March 2019

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Counci (NFCC) hasl submitted a thorough and considered response to the Government’s call for evidence on Approved Document B (ADB).

The NFCC welcomed the call on the full technical review of ADB, which supports building regulations for fire safety and is used for large numbers of new and refurbished building designs.

The submission, put together by technical specialists from across the UK fire and rescue service, outlines many areas requiring fundamental review and/or improvement, these include:

  • the scope of the guidance, and what it can be used for (e.g. restricting what a ‘common building’ is to an upper height threshold such as 50m)

  • the greater use of Automatic Water Suppression Systems ‘Sprinklers’ in the built environment

  • provisions for firefighting access and facilities

  • provisions for water for firefighting

  • requirements for residential care homes

  • consideration of the needs of vulnerable persons, especially in specialised housing

Chair of the NFCC Protection & Business Safety Committee Mark Hardingham said, “In the wake of the fire at Grenfell Tower, and the subsequent review of building regulations by Dame Judith Hackitt, it is vital that we push ahead quickly and carefully to correct the shortcomings that contributed to the terrible events of 14 June 2017.

“A significant problem with the current guidance is that the scope is unclear and leads to a completely inappropriate application of guidance in parts of the built environment. Fire and rescue services frequently see building designers applying standards meant for ‘common’ building designs, to buildings that, because they are very tall, or they house some of the most vulnerable people in society, present much greater hazards to the occupants and firefighters.

 “In practice, this means some designers are trying to apply the same fire safety standards to skyscrapers, as they are to four-storey residential buildings. NFCC believes, and we expect residents feel the same, that the fire safety requirements in these scenarios are very different and should be recognised as such in the guidance to mitigate this risk.”

Terry McDermott, NFCC Lead for Sprinklers, advises that England is currently lagging behind other parts of the United Kingdom in terms of greater inclusion of automatic water suppression systems, like sprinklers, in built environments.

“We have seen changes in Scotland and Wales that see a reduction in height requirements, and in some cases the requirement for mandatory installation in flats, and in specialised dwellings like care homes.

“The case for increased use of sprinklers is well-evidenced and clear. Sprinklers save lives, protect property, reduce the impact of fire on the environment and support UK businesses by reducing interruption. With the review of ADB, we have an opportunity to redress this inconsistency across jurisdictions and improve public safety standards across the UK.”

Roy Wilsher, Chair of the NFCC says a thorough technical review of the guidance is overdue. In addition, recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt need to be fully considered and implemented.

“It is clear the industry cannot be relied upon to regulate itself and in the interests of community and firefighter safety, clarity in the guidance that supports our building regulations is urgently required.

“This consultation, which deals with a wide range of fire safety considerations, is another important step in improving building standards in England. I am pleased that the NFCC has marshalled technical expertise from across the UK to ensure it continues to work alongside Government and others in driving this change.

“The future is not just about compliance, it requires a cultural shift in the industry so that building safety is always the first thought when it comes to building design, to ensure the safety of building occupants and firefighters.”