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New Safety Regulations Proposals For Residential Buildings

Building regulations will be substantially updated in 2024 for care homes, nursing homes, children’s homes and student accommodation.

The Department of Finance completed a consultation in September 2023 and most are expected to be implemented to bring Northern Ireland into line with regulations in England that were introduced following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

They include fire safety information to the building owner/occupier, the provision of wayfinding signage, evacuation alert systems and secure information boxes and, where appropriate, automatic fire suppression.

Under the published proposals new, altered or extended building over 11m tall with flats the designated fire safety person must understand and implement the fire safety strategy of the building, maintain any fire safety system provided in the building, and carry out an effective fire risk assessment of the building.

Automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinklers will be required in all new and converted residential buildings, hotels, hospitals, student accommodation, schools and care home buildings more than 11m in height, in line with a 2019 industry call for suppression systems.

The consultation document proposed that “supporting evidence from research carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for various regions and the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) demonstrates the clear benefits to be gained from sprinkler installation in these premises, against the relatively low costs involved”.

Similarly, it is proposed that in view of the risk of students having “an immature approach combined with a lifestyle of partying, smoking, alcohol consumption and cooking at late hours under the influence…” purpose-built student accommodation with a storey more than 11m above ground level should be fitted with automatic fire suppression systems, as the most effective and efficient way of protecting both lives and property in the student sector.

In addition to existing provisions for interconnected and mains wired smoke detectors in circulation spaces on each storey of dwellings, in the principal habitable room, and a heat detector in each kitchen, the proposals include at least one smoke alarm to be installed in all habitable rooms, and at least one heat alarm in every kitchen.

The new Technical Booklet E will also cover requirements for smoke ventilation on blocks of flats with a storey more than 11m, and clarification of requirements for buildings less than that height. It will also detail access for fire and rescue services, water mains, evacuation systems and wayfinding signage.

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