Brand Director at Barbour EHS

December 3, 2020

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Legislation

Fire safety changes to sprinkler thresholds in Approved Document B come into force

Documents in Approved Document B, the documents relating to fire safety in the Building Regulations, were updated on 26th November to incorporate 2020 amendments. A key part of these changes is the trigger height to fit sprinklers in tall buildings has been reduced to 11m (typically four floors), from 30m (typically 10 floors). 

The documents cover building regulations for fire safety in residential homes, including new and existing dwellings, flats, residential accommodation, schools, colleges and offices.

Volume 1: Dwellings – main changes made by the 2020 amendments

The changes focus on the following fire safety provisions in blocks of flats:

  1. Sprinklers: a reduction in the trigger height from 30m to 11m.
  2. Wayfinding signage for the fire service: a new recommendation for floor identification and flat indication signage within blocks of flats with storeys over 11m.

In addition, a typographical error is corrected in both volumes. Purpose group number 2 is now included in reference to ‘residential’ buildings in the guidance on boundaries.

The changes are set out in the May 2020 AD B amendments.

Volume 2: Buildings other than dwellings – main changes made by the 2020 amendments

The changes focus on the following fire safety provisions in blocks of flats (Volume 1):

  1. Sprinklers: a reduction in the trigger height from 30m to 11m
  2. Wayfinding signage for the fire service: a new recommendation for floor identification and flat indication signage within blocks of flats with storeys over 11m.

In addition, a typographical error is corrected in both volumes. The changes are set out in the May 2020 AD B amendments.

Read more information about the amendments to Approved Document B, here. 

The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) has welcomed the changes to Approved Document B (ADB), however it has questioned whether the measures go far enough?

The changes with regard to the mandatory installation of automatic fire sprinklers in England, affect new build, material alteration, material change of use and extensions. The main points in addition to those mentioned above being:

  • BS9251 or BS EN 12845 continue to be recommended for sprinkler system installations in flats.
  • There will be no recommendation for sprinklers to be provided in common areas when these are fire sterile (lacking in combustible materials.)

BAFSA questions whether the requirement should have been extended to all new built flats, no matter the height. Evidence has shown that automatic fire sprinklers protect residents of flats from fire, they limit fire spread protecting means of escape for residents, and also protect Firefighters who attend such fires.

It is also a proven fact that automatic fire sprinklers reduce property and contents damage from fire by extinguishing or controlling the fire in its early stages. This evidence applies equally to flats below 11 metres as well as those above that height, perhaps an opportunity missed, BAFSA suggests?

This news story is in partnership with Barbour EHS, a specialist information service provider supporting professionals across sectors including fire and security, FM, health and safety, sustainability and energy.

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