Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
August 24, 2022


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Building Safety

Concerns raised from BRAC and Government on single staircase provisions in tall residential buildings

A circular letter has been sent by the Government’s Building Safety Portfolio to building control bodies, local authorities and the wider industry highlighting concerns over tall residential buildings being designed with single staircases.

Stairway-Building-22The letter to industry comes following advice from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), expressing concerns over proposals for tall residential buildings with single staircases.

BRAC highlights that it believes there to be an “incorrect understanding and selective reading of Approved Documents”, and that many proposals for higher risk buildings “lack the necessary robust evidence to demonstrate compliance with the functional requirements of Building Regulations”.

The Committee is particularly concerned that higher risk buildings are being designed on the “incorrect premise” that the guidance in the Approved Documents is adequate for all tall buildings. This, it believes, should not be the case, pointing to several requirements as evidence for its argument:

  • Requirement B1: Stipulates the building must be designed with appropriate means of warning and escape
  • Requirement B5: Stipulates that the building must be equipped with appropriate provision to assist firefighters in the protection of life
  • Statutory Guidance states: “compliance with the guidance set out in the approved documents does not provide a guarantee of compliance with the requirements of the regulations because the approved documents cannot cater for all circumstances”

BRAC also noted that proposals for tall residential buildings with single staircases were not consistent with the arrangements – such as Planning Gateways and Building Safety Act related legislation – that the Government is steering through parliament.

READ: The single stair debate – One staircase or two in tall buildings?

Victoria Molho, Deputy Director of the Technical Policy Division for the Building Safety Portfolio at DLUHC, responded with a letter to building control and local councils, agreeing with BRAC’s concerns.

Within the letter, Molho notes the “need to consider the suitability of the design in Approved Document B and the need for robust, evidence-based, design by suitably competent professionals”. She also adds that “very large or very tall buildings” are included in ‘non-standard conditions’ in the Manual to the Building Regulations.

The letter concludes: “The Department would expect that robust fire safety provisions are made to demonstrate compliance with Part B of Building Regulations in the case of non-standard conditions, which include very tall single stair residential buildings. Such situations are likely to require a detailed fire engineering analysis.”

The ‘single staircase debate’ was subject to a panel discussion at this year’s FIREX International in May, where experts outlined the challenges and benefits of having more than one staircase in higher risk buildings. The point was made that the design and profile of a building should always be considered, as well as the role of the fire and rescue service.

Read the full letter from BRAC to DLUHC and circular letter to the industry, here.  


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