Building owners would no longer be able to rely on their own assessment of fire safety whilst sprinklers would be mandatory in new and retrofitted buildings and non-combustible material would be required in walls above eighteen meters under proposals for tougher fire safety regulations put forward by a leading architecture body in the United Kingdom.

Unveiling its response to the call for evidence from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) made fifteen initial recommendations which it says would improve the safety of buildings throughout the United Kingdom.

Under one recommendation, a current regulation which enables building owners to undertake their own fire risk assessment would be ditched in favour of mandatory Fire Safety Certificates for designated premises.

These would be based on independent inspections by fire brigades, who would be endowed with statutory powers to enter individual dwellings where necessary.

Sprinklers would be mandated for new and retrofitted residential buildings whilst non-combustible materials would be required for external walls of 18m or greater in height.

In other recommendations:

  • Multiple means of vertical escape would be required for residential buildings above three storeys (no use of ‘compensatory’ features would be able to enable the omission of staircases or multiple means of escape).
  • A current ‘stay put’ policy contained in a British Standard of Practice would be reviewed, with a leaning instead toward better and more escape options
  • Requirements for central fire alarm systems would be introduced for multi-occupancy buildings
  • Central fire alarm systems and sprinkler systems would be retrofitted for existing buildings of greater than 18 metres in height

More broadly, RIBA says consideration should be given to the adoption of the principal designer and principal contractor roles set out in CDM Regulations 2015, with new regulation to encompass the fire safety of building users within these roles.

It says the principal designer should be endowed with greater powers to ensure safe design and construction whilst the principal contractor would be subject to greater responsibility to work with the principal designer and fire brigades to deliver upon fire safety objectives.

Led by Dame Judith Hackitt, the review was initiated following the Grenfell fire tragedy in which it is believed that around 80 people have died.

It is looking at the adequacy of current regulatory systems and how fire-safety in multi-storey residential buildings can be improved.

The RIBA has welcomed the review but argued that it should be extended to cover details about Building Regulations guidance as well as the broader regulatory system.

“The Review should cover all building types and construction methods not just those relating to high-rise, multiple occupancy residential buildings,” Jane Duncan, Chair of the RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety said.