At the request of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), the Department of Housing Settlement and Communities (DLUHC) sent a letter circular For industry in high-rise apartment buildings with one escape route.
In March, amid a public outcry over London’s proposed one-stair skyscrapers, the British Rural Development Commission wrote to Housing Minister Lord Greenhalgh on the issue. The newly published letter stated that “It is not clear how it was done [single stair high-rise] Design proposals will demonstrate compliance with the functional requirements of the Building Regulations, particularly with regard to means of escape.
The commission told the government that it was concerned that high-risk high-rise buildings were designed on the “incorrect premise” that its official guidance on how to meet building regulations (approved documents) was appropriate for all types of tall buildings.
The Building and Construction Development Commission (BRAC) said that high-rise apartment buildings should not be treated as a “common building type” and urged ministers to write to building control bodies, local authorities and the broader industry, reminding them that “all construction projects must demonstrate compliance with full building regulations.” “. .
Four months later, the government issued a note saying it was in agreement with the Bangladesh Rural Development Commission. Informs the industry that, for ‘non-standard’ applications such as a very high single stair residential tower, ‘strong’ fire safety provisions are expected to demonstrate compliance with Part B of the Building Regulations, adding: ‘Such situations are likely To require a detailed analysis of fire engineering.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, activists have repeatedly called on the government to toughen rules around single-stair tall buildings. The UK and South Korea only allow one staircase in buildings regardless of height.
After growing outrage over the issue, Several single-stair skyscrapers have been redesigned in Londonincluding a 52-story tower designed by Morris + Company in Canary Wharf.
This led to a call from the RIBA for “urgent clarity” on the minimum over which architects should design a second staircase, information that the circular does not provide. The institute’s president, Simon Alford, said the government’s letter lacked “critical details”.
He added: “As a sector, we are urgently requesting building regulations and guidance to define a clearly defined height threshold where one or more stairs are required to provide adequate access for firefighters and evacuate residents from their homes. This evidence should be based on real-world research, and international precedent. Until we have this definition, we cannot proceed with certainty.
The campaign group Tower Hamlets Justice for Tenants, which campaigned against the Cuba Street tower, said the government had a “perfect opportunity” to change the rules on single-stair towers in fire and building safety codes.
She added: “We urge the UK government to change the rules in England to bring us into line with the rest of the world as the second fire escape staircase located at opposite ends of the building has been mandated in the new multi-storey apartment blocks.
“England is out of the world. Residential buildings need safety regulations similar to or better than commercial safety regulations.
Several organisations, including the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the Mayor of London, have called for multiple ramps to be introduced. In 2019, Scotland changed its guidance to require a second staircase in buildings over 18 metres.
In its response to the government’s advice about sharing emergency evacuation information, the NFCC has repeatedly called for two staircases in the new apartment towers.
She said: “The NFCC is disappointed that the new proposals from the government do not contain an interdepartmental response to address the obvious root cause of these problems – that buildings have not been properly designed, constructed or maintained. Buildings should be suitable for the people who live in them, rather than being ‘fit’ for the buildings.