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.
July 25, 2023


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Building Safety

Gove opens Cladding Safety Scheme and commits to mandating second staircases in new residential buildings over 18m

The UK’s Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) outlined his long-term plans for housing in England on 24 July – a portion of which was dedicated to building safety, second staircases and cladding.


Michael Gove, Secretary of State for DLUHC

“We shape buildings, Winston Churchill argued, and they shape us.” Mr Gove opened his speech with a quote that many who have suffered from the building safety crisis in the last six years will no doubt agree with.

And, though much of his speech outlining his long-term strategy for housing focused on regeneration projects, inner-city densification and housing delivery, building safety reform remains on the agenda.

You can read the full speech on the gov.uk website, here >>

Building safety – Second staircases and Cladding Safety Scheme

Referencing the “progress” already made by the “landmark” Building Safety Act 2022, Gove outlined two additional measures that will be of interest to the fire and building safety industry.

The first looks to cater for a debate that has raged for several years, regarding secondary staircases in tall buildings.

Within the speech, Gove confirmed his attention to mandate second staircases in all new residential buildings above 18 metres high. The announcement follows confirmation from expert bodies that they support this threshold, the Secretary of State explained. Earlier this year, the Government opened a consultation asking industry whether second staircases should be mandated on buildings over 30 metres – it appears the result is to go a step further.

The subject of mandating second staircases within tall buildings in England has come under much scrutiny, particularly in the years following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

Single staircases have been common practice in England, with the intention to work alongside a ‘stay put’ policy of evacuation in the incident of a fire. However, Grenfell highlighted concerns that there is no guarantee that every building is properly built and maintained, while residents are more likely to seek evacuation since the events of June 2017.

For those buildings already in process that might fall under this scope, DLUHC has said it will work with industry and regulators to “design transitional arrangements” to avoid delays.

In addition, Gove also opened the Cladding Safety Scheme (CSS) to all eligible buildings  to help address fire risks associated with cladding on residential buildings.

Originally announced in November 2022, the scheme is now open to all buildings between 11-18 metres in height – referenced as medium-rise buildings.

Any buildings over 18 metres have been able to apply for the pre-existing Building Safety Fund already.

A drive for further investment in high-rise construction?

The announcements are designed to provide “clarity to builders” and rebuild confidence in housing safety – notably in high-rise blocks, “tackling… reasons that have held back investment” in these areas, explained Gove.

Densification was a key message throughout the speech, and it appears the Government is keen to rebuild within already-space-starved cities – indicating a drive towards more high-rise residential building construction.

Industry reaction

National Fire Chiefs Council backs second staircase move

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has backed the move from Gove. Previously, the NFCC had already made its position clear on the matter, having released a statement in December calling for all new high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres to have a second staircase.

Gavin Tomlinson, NFCC Protection and Business Safety Scrutiny Committee Chair said: “NFCC welcomes the Secretary of State’s announcement that a second staircase will be mandatory for all new residential buildings above 18 metres in height. Following the launch of our position statement calling for this change, we are pleased that the Government has listened to voices from across the sector.

“This decision marks another significant step in improving the safety of residents and firefighters in high-rise residential buildings across England. We look forward to working with the Government on the details of the guidance to ensure that it delivers safe and well-designed protected staircases and buildings.

“We would urge the Government to also take existing buildings into account and make it a requirement to install sprinklers and install or replace evacuation lifts during major refurbishments.”

Zeroignition’s Ian King – Keep fire safety in mind before dashing ahead with repurposing

Ian King, COO at Zeroignition, noted that while the relaxation of planning rules in city centres may sound good, he urged developers not to disregard fire safety: “On paper, this repurposing concept is a brilliant one. However, in the dash to get projects started, it’s vital safety procedures are not overlooked. Whilst fire risk in an open plan commercial space is relatively minimal, when this space is divided up into individual, self-contained dwellings issues can arise. A previously fire-safe building can quickly become a fire hazard.

“Unfortunately, some will try to cut corners in a bid to finish projects on time and under budget. The recent past has shown the devastating consequences of sloppy fire safety protocol. So, I urge developers eyeing up the opportunities to not veer from specifying officially-certified, fire-rated products and systems in conversion projects. Likewise, the Government and regulator needs to be vigilant, and tough in its universal enforcement of the regulations arising from the FSA and BSA, to ensure these new homes are safe and secure.”



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