London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been challenging the practice of designing tall buildings with only a single staircase for some time on the basis of constrained access and egress in the event of a fire or other emergency.
A consultation on changes to regulations was run by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities and closed on Friday 17th March.
LFB’s response reaffirmed its support for the proposed changes. It acknowledged that staircases are not the only consideration when it comes to fire safety in buildings, and existing buildings with a single staircase can still be safe if they have appropriate fire safety measures in working order. However, the brigade said that that multiple staircases in tall buildings improved resilience and safety.
The mayor of London is already requiring second staircases in the capital ahead of central government intervention. On 13th February, the mayor announced with immediate effect that all new planning applications for blocks of 30 metres and above in London will need to include a second staircase to be considered for approval.
Assistant commissioner for fire safety Charlie Pugsley said: “Having pushed developers to include at least two staircases in tall residential buildings for some time, we support the government’s plans to bring in this clear limit for new buildings over 30 metres to further improve safety.
“This introduction of a clear threshold will give clarity to developers, local authorities and communities and prevent the continued practice of increasingly tall buildings being designed and constructed with only a single staircase.
“We also welcome the action taken by the mayor of London to ensure that the government’s proposed height threshold applies to new buildings being constructed in the capital.”
LFB also gave its backing to proposals requiring sprinklers in new care homes. It said that it would also recommend making it mandatory for sprinklers to be retrofitted into existing care homes.
The National Fire Chiefs Council has previously stated that it wants second staircases in all new buildings above 18 metres or seven storeys (rather than the 30 metres being proposed by government), and said that all existing buildings of this height should be retrofitted with sprinklers. [See our previous report here.]