Sector bodies call for mandatory second staircases in buildings over 18 metres

Built environment bodies and other groups are calling for all new residential buildings taller than 18 metres to have a second staircase.

In a current government consultation on amendments to Approved Document B – which sets out statutory guidance on meeting certain requirements of the Building Regulations – all residential buildings taller than 30 metres would have to include two staircases.

But yesterday(22 March), eight representative bodies wrote to housing secretary Michael Gove saying the threshold for more than one staircase should be lowered to 18 metres.

The letter was co-signed by eight organisations including the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and a number of disability rights groups.

It says the 18-metre proposal would “better align height thresholds across the wider regulatory environment and better reflect the reality of a post-Grenfell world”.

The authors added that this was “not a panacea for fire safety” and called for ministers to carry out a full review of Approved Document B.

The plans for a 30-metre threshold have already prompted some concern. In January, a building-safety expert told Construction News the government’s proposal “will have some very costly and profound implications for projects that are currently at the design stage”.

RIBA President Simon Allford said: “RIBA has long called for clarity on staircase design, and standards that help ensure people are safe in their homes. The government’s current proposal fails to address our shared concerns. We stand ready to support government action on addressing all our concerns.”

A spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) said: “New-build safety standards are significantly higher than those from previous decades and the industry is committed to working with government to ensure designs continue to evolve. Changes to design requirements need to factor in the significant safety enhancements incorporated into today’s high-rise buildings and be proportionate and we are aligned with government, the GLA and the London Fire Brigade on supporting changes to requirements for over-30-metre buildings.”

The spokesperson added that as these changes are implemented, “transitional arrangements will be key and consideration must be given to the impact on viability. Planning departments need to be practical, pragmatic and efficient in dealing with resubmitted applications to avoid a log jam that would hit housing supply and jobs”.

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