Following the Grenfell Tower disaster, there are calls for tighter regulations relating to external wall surfaces and external wall build-up for buildings. There is a particular focus on buildings where occupants may be asleep at the time a fire occurs.
This is because the pre-movement time for people who are asleep is far greater than for those who are awake, and it takes them longer to reach a place of safety.
Those who are sleeping are also at increased risk if the façade materials could contribute to the spread of fire. Additionally, the height of the building will affect people’s ability to escape.
There is a requirement for every building (except prisons) to have appropriate provisions for early warning of fire and means of escape to a place of safety outside the building.
Increasing levels of fire resistance and provisions for the fire service are recommended as the height of the building increases.
Current guidance recommends that the external façade of a residential building resists the spread of fire over the surface (unless the building is within 1m of the boundary). It also recommends that the building should have non-combustible insulation as part of the external wall build-up. However, this only applies to residential buildings with a top floor height above 18m.
For buildings with a top floor height under 18m (approx. 6 floors above ground), there are currently no recommendations relating to the external wall. This begs the question of why someone asleep on the 5th floor is at any less risk than someone on the 6th floor.
At Innovation Fire Engineering, we believe that anyone who is sleeping when a fire occurs is faced with an increased risk, no matter where they are in the building. As such, we think that safety precautions should not be limited to six floors and above.
It shouldn’t take another tragedy like Grenfell to influence a change in the way that fire safety is approached. It’s far better to be proactive than be forced to make changes retrospectively.
That’s why we advise our clients to use a specific classification of materials for residential buildings with a floor height greater than 4.5m and care homes and hospitals which are not single storey.
We have put our recommendations for the materials which form part of the external façade (apart from the excepted items) in the following table:
About Innovation Fire Engineering
Innovation Fire Engineering is an independent, award-winning company that specialises in fire safety. Our expert team of consultants provide innovative fire engineering strategies for contractors, developers and architects across the UK. Our objective is to design fire strategies that make buildings safe, so disasters like Grenfell don’t happen again.
If you would like to discuss a project or have any questions about fire engineering solutions, then our friendly consultants are happy to help. Call us on 0113 460 5906 to find out how we can support you.