• International Workplace
  • 30 January 2007

Workplace Law FM Conference - Changes to building regs Part B (Fire Safety)

Today (30 January), in an informative session at Workplace Law's 8th Annual Facilities Management Legal Update Conference Mark Hillier, Principal Trainer at Butler and Young Ltd, took a look at the new revisions to Part B (Fire safety) of the Building Regulations, coming into force 6 April, and the impact these changes will have on refurbishment and new builds.

The revisions to Part B (Fire safety) of the Building Regulations, and supporting guidance in Approved Document B, reflect recent experiences of actual fires; developments in construction; research findings; and comprehensive stakeholder engagement - including a four-month public consultation exercise.

Hillier explained that, for the first time ever, two separate bodies worked together to look at the old Approved Document to see what its failings were, what could be improved and what future trends might be.

The review of the current Approved Document B began in 2003. The exercise revealed that people wanted significant changes to the regulations to be highlighted and more explanation of these changes - to show how and why new guidance differs, and why specific changes were required. Three strong common themes emerged:

  • fire safety management and particularly the importance of ensuring that information about the fire safety design of buildings is passed onto the person responsible for its management;
  • the important role of residential sprinklers; and
  • the need for clearer guidance about means of escape for disabled people."

Between July and August 2005 the Government carried out a consultation on the proposed changes. The current Document B, said Hillier, is considered to be confusing, and an aim of the new Document is to clarify and simplify the information it contains. Something Hillier believes they have achieved.

The changes to Part B come into force on 6 April 2007 and will affect future building work in England and Wales - including the erection, extension or material alteration of a building, and how fire safety is designed into a building.

For non-domestic buildings, the key change for FMs and building managers is a new requirement to ensure occupiers are made aware of their building's fire protection measures so as to assist with the preparation of fire risk assessments under the new Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order regime. This means that FMs will be given a fire safety manual which includes all the information – in one place – which they need to create a fire risk assessment for their building. Building control will not issue a building completion certificate until this plan is done and handed over.

In what Hillier described as a “good move” Appendix G of the document sets out what should be included in the manual:

  • Escape routes, compartmentation, cavity barriers.
  • Fire doors, ironmongery, hardware.
  • Fire alarm details, signage, dry and wet risers.
  • Sprinkler layouts/design/maintenance etc.
  • Smoke control systems.
  • Any design assumptions made.

The Document also sets out the idea that design of a building should not rely on an unrealistic management regime. It states:

“A design which relies on an unrealistic or unsustainable management regime cannot be considered to have met the requirements of the Regulations. Once the building id in use the management regime should be maintained and any variation in that regime should be the subject of a suitable risk assessment.”

The kind of information that is clarified in the new Document, Hillier described, includes information on: means of escape, exit capacity, guidance for small premises, doors on escape routes and panic exit ironmongery.

Work will not be subject to the new Part B amendments if, before 6 April 2007:

  • a building notice has been given to the local authority;
  • full plans have been deposited with the local authority; or
  • an initial notice, a public body’s notice or an amendment notice has been issued to the local authority.