Fire sector endorses major changes to building regulations

Posted On: 
20th November 2017

Rockwool writes following a recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue which invited experts from across the fire sector to discuss major changes to building regulations in England.

Credit: 
PA

Last week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue convened a meeting of experts from across the fire sector in the House of Lords to discuss a series of major changes to building regulations in England. They highlighted the need to retrofit sprinklers into high-rise tower blocks, as recommended in the Lakanal House coroner’s report; to require the use of non-combustible materials only on the facades of mid-and-high-rise blocks as well as sensitive buildings, and to implement more rigorous fire safety inspection and control measures. Attendees also called on government to support local authorities on necessary remedial works. Sensitive buildings include schools, hospitals, and care homes, which are both densely occupied and harder to evacuate quickly.

Sir David Amess MP, who began the discussion as chair of the APPG Fire Safety and Rescue, highlighted the APPG’s long history of campaigning for fire safety, and said “A tragedy like Grenfell Tower must never happen again. We have a responsibility and a duty to improve our approach to public safety around fire, including strengthening the Building Regulations. That’s why we’ve brought together experts from across the industry to point a way forward, and I believe this set of recommendations is a positive start to improving fire safety in the UK.”

Attendees also recognised the need for new requirements around smoke toxicity, which is the leading cause of fire-related deaths. Future fire safety should also ensure greater transparency around the fabric of our buildings, a requirement for new builds to have multiple escape routes, and regular inspections of tower blocks for fire safety

Brian Robinson CBE, President of the Fire Sector Federation and former London Fire Commissioner, reflected on his own experience as a firefighter, arguing that “we need sprinklers and multiple escape routes in all tall buildings to minimise the threat when fire happens. We also need a comprehensive set of measures to prevent fire, including regular inspections, complete transparency about building materials used and standards for appropriate combustibility on building facades, as well as a National Fire Safety Agency to bring it all together.” Currently, fire safety responsibility is complex and diverse, split between a number of different stakeholders.

Robinson was joined by Rory Moss, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL UK, who highlighted the private sector’s responsibility: “Industry needs to stand up for public safety. The experience of other countries has taught us that buildings are safer when they use non-combustible materials on facades. Regulations must be tightened, to give residents complete confidence that their home is safe from fire.” England is currently one of the only jurisdictions in Europe which permits the use of combustible materials on mid-and high-rise blocks.

Adrian Robson, Executive Director of the Royal Institute of British Architects, also addressed the event, which was attended by materials manufacturers, fire safety specialists, academics, and contractors, as well as members of the APPG. The APPG will be in touch with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid to urge him to adopt these proposals as part of the revision of building regulations in England.