10 June 2022
The use of combustible materials on high-rise buildings has been under review by the government since the Grenfell Fire tragedy. The government has now announced further changes to the use of combustible materials following consultation:
The changes will be implemented through The Building etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022 ("Regulations") and will come into effect on 1 December 2022.
Combustible materials have been banned for use on the external walls of new buildings of at least 18 metres containing one or more dwellings, an institution or room for residential purposes since 21 December 2018, under The Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018. The ban included high-rise residential tower blocks, hospitals, residential care homes, student accommodation and dormitories in boarding schools but at the time rooms in hotels, hostels and boarding houses were excluded.
The ban will now be extended to the external walls of hotels, hostels and boarding houses of at least 18 metres in England. Although these buildings can be staffed overnight, have multiple escape routes and alarm systems, given that occupants are less familiar with these surroundings, it is considered that there is still a sleeping risk. Balconies, solar panels and solar shading devices attached to the external wall are also included within the scope of the ban with a limited exemption for ground floor awnings. The Regulations will also provide exemptions from the ban for certain materials such as fibre optic cables.
The height threshold remains at 18 metres even though there had been some calls for this to be reduced to 11 metres.
The Regulations will ban completely the use of metal composite materials (metal composite materials with an unmodified polyethylene core) in the external walls of all new buildings and buildings undergoing building work, regardless of height or use.
New guidance outlined in Approved Document B also sets out limits to the use of combustible materials in the external walls and balconies for residential buildings of 11 m – 18 m.
This is intended to allow designers and developers some flexibility in the use of materials, such as structural timber, on residential buildings below a height threshold of 18 metres, and takes account of existing requirements for the installation of sprinklers in new residential buildings of over 11 metres which should reduce the risk of injury in the event of a fire emergency.
The updated Approved Document B will also require all new residential buildings over 11 m to include a Secure Information Box to give fire and rescue services access to key information about the building, and for new residential developments over 18 metres to incorporate an Evacuation Alert Systems to help the emergency services inform residents of any change in evacuation strategy.
The Regulations will apply to new buildings and also to buildings, which following a change of use, become a building within scope. The Regulations will also apply to material alterations to existing buildings within scope.
The Regulations will come into force on 1 December 2022 but will not apply where:
The changes to Approved Document B will take effect on the same day and the same transitional arrangements will apply.