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In this week's technical section, fire engineer Kathryn Lewis provides a detailed breakdown of the consultation stage of Approved Document Part B: Fire Safety. This ODPM consultation ends on 18 November and aims to be released in a year's time, with implementation by April 2007.

Obviously, given the ineptitude of the cabal at Building Regulations Central, this timescale isn't worth the paper it's printed on. But architects are advised to start mulling through the documents to make themselves aware of the cost implications and start actively challenging some of the nonsensical requirements that will otherwise make it onto the statute book.

Hidden away on the ODPM site - a site that simply refuses to date any document, and thus makes navigation a hit-and-miss sort of affair - is a second-tier document to the Approved Document, called Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Procedural Guidance, issued in August and closing its consultative phase on 14 November.

Fire safety documents are hard to read at the best of times but this one has the 'track changes' still activated and so about half of its 51 pages have been struck through and it feels like you're reading someone's private mail.

This document is aimed at all parties to the building process and intends to explain the processes involved in approving fire safety aspects of buildings.

It states that 'if the procedures described in this guide are followed, developers and designers will be able to receive all the fire safety information relevant to Building Regulations and other statutory approvals, in time to avoid abortive work'.

It relates, obviously, to changes in procedural guidance relevant to the new Part B.

A 'Fire Safety Order' takes over from the Fire Precautions Act 1971, which ceased to have effect in July. In non-domestic premises, it strikes out the fire certification obligations under the previous legislation and replaces it with a 'general duty to take such fire precautions as may be reasonably required to ensure that premises are safe for the occupants and a general duty to carry out a risk assessment' undertaken by a 'responsible person'. In general, in relation to a workplace, this means the employer.

The specific term, 'general fire precautions', relates to the duties owed to occupants, the public and fire-fi ghters (as firemen are called these days - in the same way that the 'fire brigade' is now called a 'fi re service').

Once again, performance specification and risk assessments replace 'special, technical or organisational' standards as the document suggests that these should be picked up in general riskassessment procedures under the Health and Safety at Work legislation.

The legislation does not apply to single houses but to all other accommodation and non-domestic residences, and tends to relate to occupation practices rather than building processes.

Construction details and designs are still covered by the Building Regulations - but the guidance recommends consultative dialogue with a fire safety officer at an early stage in the scheme development to flag up potential problems prior to start on site, as user activities may impact on construction issues.

A helpful 'step-by-step' approvals process diagram is contained on page 19, and this is actually, shocked as I am to say it, a useful explanatory guide to a confusing area of architectural compliance.

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