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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.

March 5, 2019

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fire safety guidance

Architects warn fire safety guidance is ‘deeply flawed’

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has called for two staircases to be built in all new tower blocks, after warning current safety guidance is “deeply flawed”.

Tower blockIn its response to the Government’s technical consultation on Approved Document B, RIBA has called for at least two staircases in new residential buildings, where the top floor is more than 11m above ground level or more than three storeys high.

It also calls on the Government to prioritise the introduction of centrally addressable fire alarms, a requirement for sprinklers in all new and converted residential buildings, and the retro-fitting of sprinklers in existing residential buildings above 18 metres high.

RIBA has also expressed concern that the technical guidance in Approved Document B has been developed assuming that measures to resist the spread of fire will be 100% effective and the “stay put” policy can be relied on.

But as the Grenfell Tower tragedy illustrated, RIBA has pointed out that if a fire spreads rapidly, such a “stay put” policy can be devastating.

“We simply cannot allow buildings to continue to be built to regulations and guidance that everyone, including the government, acknowledges are deeply flawed,” said the Chair of RIBA’s Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, Jane Duncan.

“20 months on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, to continue with more consultation but not enough action fails the public and does not honour the victims.

“All residents should have the right to the added protection offered by sprinkler systems, to know if a fire breaks out in their building, and to be safely evacuated if necessary.  This means the guidance must change to ensure a better warning system and an alternative means of escape.”

The full RIBA response on Approved Document B is available to read here.

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There is no general legal requirement for sprinkler systems to be installed in a place of work but there may be circumstances where sprinklers are required.

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