Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
November 11, 2015

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Approved Document B is Long Overdue an Overhaul, Say 92% of FSF Members

Construction crane 2More than nine in 10 (92%) members of the Fire Sector Federation (FSF) think approved document B and associated building regulations should be subject to a review, a survey by the organisation has revealed.

Noting the documents’ complex and inconsistent language the FSF is, together with the Construction Industry Council (CIC), calling for a clarification of the guidance in this area.

The Building Regulations and its guidance in Approved Document B have not been subject to an in-depth review since 2006. By contrast, guidance documents Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part Q (security) have been reviewed every two years.

More than 88% of FSF members and 42% of CIC members agree that Approved Document B does not reflect today’s construction methods, design and usage. And 69% of FSF members believe research underpinning guidance in Approved Document B is out of date.

More than half of members of the Construction Industry Council, whose views were sought in a separate survey, admitted they found the guidance in Approved Document B difficult to use.

And every single FSF member agreed on the need to address inconsistencies in building definitions.

The coroner who dealt with the Lakanal House fire in 2013 has also previously called for a review of the guidance in Approved Document B. This recommendation was based on Rule 43 of the Coroners’ Rules, insofar as evidence points to a risk of further deaths in the future unless changes are made.

Led by the FSF’s  Built Environment Issues and Affairs Workstream the study surveyed professionals from the Fire and Rescue Services, academics, construction developers, insurance professionals, manufacturers of fire safety equipment, planners, building control officers and others.

Respondents were asked for their verdict on:

  • Clarity of wording
  • User-friendliness
  • Adaptation to construction trends
  • Incorporation of factors other than life safety

The FSF has signaled a need for improvements in the assessment of construction products and methods, better use of relevant research and for accreditation to be mandatory.

The inclusion of fire safety management in Approved Document B would prevent £1bn worth of fire-related damage over 25 years, research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) suggested in 2005.

The FSF survey follows recent calls from leading industry figures for a rethink of fire engineering practices in construction in light of the proliferation of complex steel structures.


Viewpoints

Celestine CheongCelestine Cheong, chair, Built Environment Issues and Affairs Workstream

“The Federation is founded on acceptance that fire safety in the UK is far wider than the Fire and Rescue Service alone because emergency firefighting is a measure implemented when safety features and protection has failed, and we need to remove this eventuality as much as possible.

“We understand the pressures on government and we would like to help resolve issues pertaining to fire.

“Having identified areas in this study such as the research underpinning the guidance being out of date, complex wording and the guidance’s limited applied scope, we wish to work with government to develop further opinion on an agreed frequency of updates, idea generation with relevant stakeholders for improved clarity of text, and to develop opportunities to minimise risks and impacts from fire to property, the wider built and other environments.”


graham wattsGraham Watts OBE, CEO, Construction Industry Council

“As best practice and new technology evolves, it is essential that Building Regulations and Guidance Documents are aligned with these new developments, that they are clear in their meaning and easy to use.

“This necessitates a regular need for review to ensure relevance.  A review of Approved Document B is long overdue.

“I welcome the findings of this study in drawing attention to problems that are challenging FSF and CIC members and may be compromising fire safety in our built environment.”


mark shepherdMark Shepherd, manager, general insurance, Association of British Insurers (ABI)

“The guidance in Approved Document B should promote a risk-based approach to fire safety and recognise the inter-relationship between fire safety, arson and security in buildings, and the impact of fire on communities.

“It is time that fire safety design guidance considers all pertinent risk factors including social, economic and environmental factors such as proximity to, and use of neighbouring buildings, local rates of fire and arson, and levels of deprivation.”


paul everallPaul Everall, CEO, Local Authority Building Control

“The Approved Documents provide essential guidance as to how to comply with the Building Regulations in England and Wales. As such, it is vitally important that the advice in them is clear and unambiguous, and that they reflect changes in construction practice.

“It is some time since Approved Document B was updated, and I welcome this survey of CIC members which shows how necessary a review now is.”


julian brazerJulian Brazier, Conservative MP for Canterbury and Whitstable

“My concern is that, at a time when building regulations are more prescriptive than ever on issues like energy saving, the basic requirement to make the building resilient to fire appears to have been lost sight of.”


More observations from the FSF survey on building regulations and Approved Document B:

  • Both FSF and CIC members broadly agreed that the text in both documents should be clearer and easier to use, with greater clarity required in terms of how to identify and formulate definitions
  • 82% of FSF members – but only 44% of CIC members – thought the scope of Approved Document B should extend beyond ‘life safety’
  • 90% of FSF members said third-party accreditation should be mandatory rather than voluntary
  • 43% of CIC members and 75% of FSF members think the Fire and Rescue Service should have the final decision over B5 compliance (access and facilities for Fire and Rescue Services)

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