As an architect, it is crucial to stay up to date with the latest legal requirements to ensure the safety and well-being of occupants in high-rise residential buildings. One critical aspect of building safety is smoke ventilation, which plays a vital role in fire prevention and evacuation procedures. In this blog, we will outline the current legal requirements for smoke control in residential buildings, including the latest updates in the Building Safety Act.
Current Regulatory Framework:
The legal framework governing smoke ventilation in the UK primarily consists of the Building Regulations and associated Approved Documents. These documents provide guidelines and standards for various aspects of building design, including fire safety measures. In particular, Approved Document B (Fire Safety) is of significant importance, as it provides detailed guidance on fire safety requirements for all types of buildings.
Approved Document B:
Approved Document B sets out the minimum fire safety standards that must be adhered to in the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings in the UK. In the context of smoke ventilation, it highlights the following key requirements:
1. Means of Escape:
- High-rise residential buildings must have a clear means of escape for occupants in the event of a fire.
- A clear, safe, and unobstructed escape route should be provided, ensuring easy access to a place of safety outside the building.
2. Protected Escape Routes:
- Smoke control measures must be implemented to protect escape routes, preventing the build-up of smoke and enabling safe evacuation.
- The use of smoke ventilation systems is highly recommended to achieve this objective.
3. Design and Installation of Smoke Ventilation Systems:
- Smoke ventilation systems should be designed and installed in accordance with relevant British Standards, such as BS 9999, BS 9991 and BS 7346-8. Smoke control equipment should be designed, tested and certified to EN 12101.
- The design and installation should consider factors such as the size and layout of the building, the number of occupants, and the potential fire risks.
4. Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs):
- Automatic Opening Vents are commonly used in high-rise residential buildings to provide smoke ventilation.
- AOVs should be positioned to ensure effective smoke clearance from common areas and escape routes.
- They must be designed to open automatically upon detection of smoke or upon receiving a signal from a fire alarm system and certified to EN 12101 Part 2.
5. Fire Resistance and Compartmentation:
- Approved Document B emphasizes the importance of maintaining fire-resistant construction and compartmentation within high-rise buildings.
- Smoke control measures, including smoke ventilation systems, should be integrated with fire-resistant structures to minimize the spread of fire and smoke.
The Latest Regulatory Updates In Smoke Control: The Building Safety Act
In addition to the existing regulatory framework, it is essential for architects to stay informed about any recent updates and changes in legislation that impact smoke control in high-rise residential buildings. The Building Safety Act, which received Royal Assent in 2021, introduces several important changes that directly relate to fire safety and smoke control. Let's explore some of these key updates:
1. Introduction of the Building Safety Regulator:
- The Building Safety Act establishes a new regulatory body called the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), administered by the Health and Safety Executive.
- The BSR is responsible for overseeing the safety of high-rise residential buildings and ensuring compliance with fire safety standards, including smoke control measures.
- The BSR will have the authority to enforce regulations, conduct inspections, and hold accountable those responsible for building safety.
2. Gateway Process for High-Rise Residential Buildings:
- The Act introduces a new gateway process for high-rise residential buildings in the UK that are 18 metres or taller or have at least seven storeys.
- In Gateway One, developers and building owners will be required to submit a comprehensive fire and emergency planning statement, which includes details about smoke control systems and measures. Gateway Two could involve a hard stop to construction if the BSR is not satisfied with the fire safety design and Gateway Three may prevent occupation of a building if the safety provisions are found to be inadequate.
3. Building Safety Case:
- The Building Safety Act mandates the preparation and submission of a Building Safety Case for higher-risk buildings once occupied, including high-rise residential structures.
- The Building Safety Case will need to demonstrate how fire safety, including smoke control, is addressed within the building design, construction, and ongoing management.
- It will be essential for architects to incorporate robust smoke control strategies into their designs to meet the requirements outlined in the Building Safety Case.
4. Dutyholder Responsibilities:
- The Act introduces clear responsibilities for dutyholders involved in the design, construction, and management of high-rise residential buildings.
- Dutyholders will be accountable for ensuring the effectiveness of smoke control systems, performing regular inspections and maintenance, and maintaining accurate records of all related activities.
5. Strengthened Enforcement and Penalties:
- The Building Safety Act grants the BSR increased enforcement powers to take action against non-compliance with fire safety regulations, including inadequate smoke control measures.
- Penalties for non-compliance can be severe, including financial penalties and potential imprisonment for individuals found guilty of serious breaches.
It is important to note that while the Building Safety Act introduces these updates, the specific regulations and guidance related to smoke control in high-rise residential buildings are yet to be fully developed. Architects should stay vigilant and regularly check for updates from the BSR, the government, relevant professional bodies and experts such as Colt to ensure they are informed about any further developments and requirements pertaining to smoke control.
All our smoke control technical consultants and design teams continuously receive updates in the latest information from our Technical Directors and will be able to advise you on the best solution for your project.
If you have any specific questions on regulatory updates or need support with an upcoming or ongoing project, email us at email@example.com or give us a call on 02392 451111.