The government has unveiled plans to reduce the building height for when sprinklers are required from the current 30m (around 10 storeys) and above, to 18m (six storeys). Residential fire sprinkler systems in new high rise buildings which are over 30m in height and built after 2007 should currently be fitted with a fire sprinkler system installed nowadays, in order to comply with the current requirements of the Building Regulations. There are many high rise apartment blocks which are currently having these systems installed within the living areas. The common areas tend not to have sprinkler coverage due to the high degree of fire compartmentalisation. The sprinkler system is often supplied via the boosted cold-water mains supply. The proposals came as the government also announced the creation of a new Protection Board with the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council to provide tailored building checks and inspections, if necessary, on all high-risk residential buildings in England by 2021.
The Board will operate until the new building safety regulator, proposed by the government in its response to the Hackitt Review, is established to oversee the new regulatory regime for buildings and legislation on a new building safety regime. It examined building and fire safety regulations and related compliance and enforcement with the focus on multi-occupancy high-rise residential buildings. An interim report was published on 18 December 2017 and the final report was published on 17 May 2018. It will aim to ensure building owners are acting on the latest safety advice, keeping residents updated and that interim measures are in place in all buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding.
As of 12 September, the government is also opening the application process for a £200m fund to accelerate the pace of the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM cladding from privately-owned buildings. The government has confirmed it expects the removal of unsafe ACM cladding from privately-owned residential tower blocks to be completed by the middle of next year, unless there are “exceptional circumstances” which prevent the work being done by then. The 12-week fire safety consultation on sprinklers and other measures, running until 28 November, forms part of the first proposed changes to Building Regulations in England covering fire safety within and around buildings, after the government issued a call for evidence on the technical review of Approved Document B of the Building Regulations in December 2018.It also seeks views to introduce an emergency evacuation alert system for use by fire and rescue services, alongside other fire safety measures.