The Government has announced “the biggest change in building safety for a generation”. Following on from the Grenfell tragedy and the Hackitt Review, the Housing Secretary has announced that it will be mandatory for all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11m in heights to include sprinkler systems.
The Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and National Fire Chiefs Council have all previously recommended lowering the height at which sprinklers are mandatory in new build blocks for flats from the current 30m to 11m. It remains to be seen to what extent the new rules will apply to existing high-rise residential buildings.
The announcement follows the recently published proposals in the Fire Safety Bill. These include proposals for:
- regular inspections of lifts and the reporting of results to the local fire and rescue services;
- ensuring evacuation plans are reviewed and regularly updated and personal evacuation plans are in place for residents whose ability to evacuate may be compromised;
- ensuring fire safety instructions are provided to residents in a form that they can reasonably be expected to understand; and
- ensuring individual flat entrance doors, where the external walls of the building have unsafe cladding, comply with current standards.
The latest proposals should ensure a far greater degree of fire safety in new-build residential moving forwards. Concerns still however remain about Government support for the recladding of existing residential buildings and there remain issues with lending on existing residential high-rise stock.