Given the potential risks of fire in the home, it should come as no surprise that there are significant amounts of legislation and regulations around fire safety for the residential sector.
These recommendations cover the initial construction, refurbishment or alteration and ongoing maintenance of homes, and vary depending on occupancy levels and property design features such as the corridor lengths and height of a building.
In any fire, one of the largest risks to life is smoke inhalation, with Government figures released in April 2017 showing that this was the most common cause of fire related fatalities in 2015/16, representing 36 per cent of all deaths.
In recognition of this, there is significant legislation surrounding means of escape, travel distances to a place of safety and fire service access, with smoke ventilation playing a key part in ensuring safety.
Approved Document B
Approved Document B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations 2010, or ADB for short, provides guidance on various aspects of fire safety, ranging from the performance of building materials to the use of smoke ventilation.
Under ADB, ‘natural’ smoke ventilation systems (which make use of opening vents and natural air flow dynamics to protect the escape routes against smoke) are the accepted method of providing means of escape and access for the attending fire and rescue service.
These systems are inherently simple and as such easily maintained, however they also introduce design limitations. Automatic Opening Vents (AOV’s) require external wall space, while ADB calls for natural smoke shafts to have a minimum area of 1.5m2, reducing the amount of useable space available in a building.
Fortunately, there is another way, with ADB’s recommendations being guidance rather than hard and fast rules, allowing its functional requirements to be met through other means.
By taking an ‘engineered’ approach, more efficient systems such as mechanical smoke ventilation can be used, not only removing smoke more effectively, but also reducing the space taken up by the system compared to the natural systems specified under ADB.
ADB Key Details
- Smoke alarms should be located in the centre of the entrance hall within 7.5m of the door to every habitable room.
- Automatic fire detection and alarms should be provided in accordance with BS 5839-6.
- Smoke vents should be located on an external wall with a minimum free area of 1.5m2 or discharge into a vertical smoke shaft with a minimum cross-sectional area of 1.5m2.
- Maximum travel distance of 7.5m in one direction, or 30m where there are multiple directions of escape.
- Apartment buildings with floors more than 30m above ground level must include sprinklers (designed in accordance with BS 9251:2015)
British Standards & SCA Guidance
British Standards provide more detailed information in support of the recommendations in ADB.
In addition to BS9251 and BS5839-6 which relate to sprinkler and fire detection systems respectively, it is also important to consider BS9991:2015 – Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Residential Buildings
This document allows for the adoption of more flexible fire strategy approach than the guidance provided by Approved Document B, accounting for recent industry developments such as mechanical smoke ventilation and water mist systems.
Expanding further on the topic than both ADB and the British Standards, the Smoke Control Association (SCA) document – Guidance on Smoke Control to Common Escape Routes in Apartment Buildings (Flats and Maisonettes) – provides details on the design of smoke control systems in apartment buildings, setting out information and parameters that designers should incorporate into designs when using calculations or computer modelling techniques.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or RRO, is largely concerned with defining the responsibilities of a building’s occupiers in relation to fire safety through fire risk management, including the maintenance of fire safety equipment, minimising fire risks and staff training.
Enforced by the Fire Authority, failure to adhere to comply with the RRO carries serious consequences, ranging from formal notices and the closure of the building to large fines and even imprisonment depending on the severity of the infraction.
Fortunately, the FDS Consult team can assist you in creating a suitable risk assessment in line with the Order, including management and evacuation strategies, as well as wider fire safety strategies and design support.
Navigating the Legislative Minefield
Given the potential complexities of complying with the requirements laid out by ADB, RRO and additional British Standards, our experts are on hand to provide risk assessments, appraisals and fire engineered solutions, providing guidance and feedback where necessary.
On submission of your plans, the FDS Consult team can carry out an initial design appraisal to identify any areas of non-compliance relating to fire safety legislation, including means of escape, firefighting access and smoke ventilation.
Our experts will identify any value engineering that can be carried out, as well as where more design flexibility is available, helping you to save costs while also meeting your design objectives and achieving statutory compliance.
To develop your knowledge and understanding of fire regulations for tall residential buildings, we also provide CPDUK approved lunchtime CPD seminars in your offices. To arrange a session, or for more information on FDS Consult and our fire engineering offering, contact us on:
Alternatively visit our dedicated CPD and Education page, where you can register for further details.