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Sprinkler & Signage Advice for Residential Block Management

When it comes to health & safety …

…and changes to private high-rise buildings, we flashback to the Secretary of State saying in September 2019,

“Government funds are available for private building owners to remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding, and let me be clear, inaction will have consequences and I will name and shame those who do not act during the course of the autumn. There is no excuse for further delay – and for building owners to fail to take action now would be frankly disgraceful.”

What does this mean?  Well, the announcement comes as the “the biggest change in building safety for a generation”.

There have been consultations and we’re going to summarise what’s been going on in this blog.

Prevention of Fire and High Rise Sprinkler Law

Believe it or not, there is no legal requirement for existing buildings (built before 2007) to have a sprinkler fitted in them. Seems shocking doesn’t it?

The current Statutory Guidance in England currently stands at buildings taller than 30m (and built after 2007) are RECOMMENDED to have sprinklers installed.  It’s all going to change though…

CONSULTATION

On 26 May 2020 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (mouthful….”MHCLG”) published amendments to the guidance from the original consultation in the new Statutory Guidance.   The original consultation is a 15 page document that’s reasoning is to discuss and implement changes to Building Regulations.  It’s based on the Government issuing a call for evidence in 2018, for a technical review of the Approved Document B of the Building Regulations.  Most of you working in property management will know this document, but those of you who are tenants or new to block management, etc here’s a snapshot of the that Doc B is all about:

What exactly is the Approved Document B?

Well, the Approved Document B is actually a guide, provided by the government, with possible designs and recommendations that should achieve compliance within the relevant sections of Part B.

Part B?

Part B is split into 5 sections:

  1. Part B1: Means of Warning and Escape
  2. Part B2: Internal Fire Spread (Linings)
  3. Part B3: Internal Fire Spread (Structure)
  4. Part B4: External Fire Spread
  5. Part B5: Access and Facilities for the Fire Service

We won’t go into details in this blog, but you get the gist of the original document, so you will also understand why, post Grenfell, it HAD to be reviewed.

Government Call for Evidence to Review

In December 2018 the Government issued a call for evidence on the technical review of the above Approved Document B of the Building Regulations. The Call for Evidence response was a passionate desire for change.

In September 2019, the Ministry of Housing published a consultation on: sprinklers and other fire safety measures in new high-rise blocks of flats.   The objectives and intended effects of the policy were

“The policy aims to improve life safety in new blocks of flats by increasing provision of sprinklers and wayfinding signage”

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Sprinklers and other fire safety measures : Update

Here’s the 2020 updated Statutory Guidance document, for your information, showing the changes being put in place. Let’s go into a little detail about what the Housing Secretary, Local Governments and National Fire Chiefs have been pushing for, yes of course from the tragedy of Grenfell, but in recent years too.

 History of Consultation

Fire Safety Signage (Wayfinding)

Amongst many of the considered points, fire services have previously come across problems identifying floors during an incident because the “wayfinding” signage wasn’t clear. Wayfinding signs must be consistent in the approach going forward.

Whereabouts in a building to follow signs might seem obvious, but ask any firefighter what it’s like to be in a high-rise, filled with black smoke, potential flashovers or backdrafts, with terrified occupants not being able to assess where they are, then I think any of realise the urgent need for signage to be systematically and consistently addressed.

Impact for the residential property sector

Any legislation that protects residential tenants and demystifies areas surrounding leasehold law has got to be a progressive move forward.   Sprinklers, signage and overall changes that take into consideration preventative measures should be adhered to and progressed swiftly.

We have seen the latest Draft Building Safety Bill just released last month and the team here at LMP Law are working hard to ensure all our colleagues, clients and their tenants are aware of changes and how the new changes will give a better sense of security for everyone involved.

As always, if there is anything you’d like to chat about or have concerns with, we would love to hear from you.   Here’s our contact link right HERE.