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INSPECTORS ARE PREPARING FOR A FLOOD OF APPLICATIONS

TECHNICAL & PRACTICE

The revised version of Approved Document B - Fire Safety was published earlier this week. The AJ looks at what impact this document, which comes into force in April, will have on architects and designers.

The official, revised version of Approved Document B - Fire Safety was published on 22 January and will come into force on 6 April 2007. The new guidance has been split into two volumes. These are: Volume 1: Domestic and Volume 2: Buildings other than Dwellings, totalling twice as many pages as the 2002 edition.

Approved Document B (ADB) states simply that applications have to have been received before 6 April in order to be exempt from the new guidance. Building and approved inspectors are preparing for a ood of applications as clients try to beat the clock, but there will undoubtedly be significant delays in approving scheme designs even if they are in on time.

It is worth reminding readers that domestic or nondomestic schemes that obtained building regulations approval in, say, March 2006 (beating the 6 April 2006 deadline to comply with Approved Document L: Conservation of Fuel and Power) do not have the statutory three-year period in which to start on site (as it says on the certificate). Instead, these schemes must make a start on site in the next two months. Failure to start on site will result in the effective revocation of the approval certificate and a new scheme submission will be required to show compliance with the AD L: 2006. It would seem building control boards will have enough on their plate without an avalanche of Part B submissions.

After 6 April, all ADB submissions will have to comply with the new guidelines, with a few minor transitional provisions:

Clause 2A states that where heating and hot-water systems - in accordance with a building notice, full plans submission or an initial notice - have started to be installed before 15 January, they are not eligible for the self-certification provisions;

the Regulatory Reform Act came into force in October 2006 and imposes a duty on a 'competent person' to provide fire-safety information for local-authority approval prior to being issued with a completion certificate. If a building notice or full plans application has been submitted to the local authority (regardless of whether they have been approved) before 6 April then the requirement to provide detailed fire-safety information, and Clause 2A allowing self-certification of certain works, can be waived regardless of whether the scheme departs from the information deposited; and the DCLG states that if Building Bulletin 100 'is not published by 6 April 2007, the relevant provisions of the 2000 edition of Approved Document B (incorporating the 2002 European amendments) will continue to have effect with respect to schools until such time as BB 100 is available'. This uncertainty is bound to have implications for school-scheme submissions.

RISK-BASED APPROACH The new Approved Document B relies more on risk assessment than prescription and therefore places a greater responsibility on the building designer to provide detailed risk-management information on the maintenance and operation of the building.

ADB affects new-build projects, but will also have significant repercussions on change of use and refurbishment schemes. Especially significant are the stair-width calculations in Volume 2, which need to consider disabled-access dimensions required by Approved Document M. As such, ADB's 'widths of escape routes and exits' cannot be simply replicated. More importantly, a new calculation method for the width of escape stairs, especially those converging at ground level, may lead to the need for additional staircases in refurbishment projects.

VOLUME 1: DOMESTIC ? Sprinklers will be acceptable in domestic situations, subject to risk assessment, and may be used in lieu of alternative means of escape in certain circumstances (e. g. domestic sprinklers as an alternative to a secondary escape from houses with a storey over 7.5m above ground level);

smoke alarms must have standby power sources and smoke detection should be placed in circulation spaces;

a sloping floor can be used instead of the 100mm step between integral garages and dwellinghouses. (There are no specified falls);

fire tenders need to access 45m of all dwellinghouse points; and

apart from integral garage/dwellinghouses and doors separating multiple occupancy premises (which are catered for in Volume 2), 'fire doors need not be provided with self-closing devices'.

VOLUME 2: BUILDINGS OTHER THAN DWELLINGS Includes much of that detailed above, plus other clauses:

the use of sprinklers (and other fire suppression systems) will be acceptable and may be used in lieu of some compartmentation;

fire certificates are void. People with responsibility for the premises and its operations must now ensure the safety of everyone using their premises and those in the immediate vicinity;

HTM 05 should be used for healthcare buildings, and BB 100 for schools;

'extensive' underfloor voids must be protected by cavity barriers;

buildings with compartments over 280m 2 must have hydrants.

buildings over 900m 2 with a floor level above 7.5m must be provided with fire-fighting shafts; and

unsprinklered buildings should have fire main outlets within 45m of all parts of every storey over 18m.

There is also guidance on: the provision of sprinklers in tall (30m plus) blocks of flats; the need for additional fire mains; the impact of building design on fire-fighting operations in tall buildings; means of escape for disabled people; and maximum compartment size for unsprinklered single-storey storage buildings.

Austin Williams is hosting the 'Understanding Part B'seminars in London.

The next seminar will be on 27 February from 9.00am-1.00pm at NLA, 26 Store Street, London. Contact sarah. burn@ribaenterprises. com Official copies of Approved Document B are available at www. thebuildingregs. com

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