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RIBA criticises government's ADB consultation

29 October 2018

THE ROYAL Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has said the Government’s consultation on Approved Document B "doesn't go far enough".

The aim of the consultation from Government was to clarify the official guidance by improving usability and reducing the risk of misinterpretation by those carrying out and inspecting building work.

The RIBA is disappointed that the limited scope of ‘clarification’ has not yet been met. The latest draft has gone some way towards providing a more navigable and useable document but there are significant areas in the guidance that remain fairly impenetrable, such as the section on unprotected areas. It is expected that a much-called for further comprehensive review will take place with a lengthy consultation and evidence gathering process, but in the meantime leaving designers without clear prescriptive guidance and putting projects and future building users at risk.

RIBA chair of the expert group on fire safety Jane Duncan said: “It has been sixteen months since the devasting tragedy at Grenfell Tower and the public are still waiting for answers that will guide the industry. Although the consultation seeks to partially address a lack of clarity, it falls short of making any significant changes. A review of Approved Document B has been necessary for years and this simply isn’t enough to ensure that buildings are safe for the public.

"We are deeply concerned however that the further, more adequate review will be a lengthy process. We urge the government to resource this review sufficiently to enable a swift and thorough update so that the guidance includes the recommendations that we and others have been calling for.”

The RIBA Expert Group on Fire Safety set out four key recommendations for baseline prescriptive requirements:

  • Non-combustible cladding – significant products in external wall construction for existing or new buildings over 18m in height must be certified ‘non-combustible’ (European classification A1) products only.;
  • More than one means of escape – in all new multiple occupancy residential buildings, a requirement for at least two staircases, offering alternative means of escape, where the top floor is more than 11m above ground level or the top floor is more than three storeys above the ground level storey (as required for commercial buildings);
  • Sprinklers – retro-fitting of sprinklers / automatic fire suppression systems and centrally addressable fire alarm systems to existing residential buildings above 18m from ground level as ‘consequential improvements’ where a building is subject to 'material alterations'; and
  • Mandatory requirement for sprinklers/automatic fire suppression systems and addressable central fire alarms in all new and converted residential buildings, as already required in Wales.