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Safety neglected for the spectacular...

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The Hammersmith house by Boyarsky Murphy Architects (AJ 28.2.02) features a spectacular staircase. But where was the building control officer? Perhaps there was nothing he could do about the vertiginous 33tread flight.

Paragraph 1.13 of Document K limits the number of treads in a flight to 16 only if it is in a shop or place of assembly, and paragraph 1.14 requires a landing and change of direction only if there are more than 36 treads in consecutive flights. Should the architect be congratulated for designing to the limits of the regulations, or criticised for designing beyond the limits of reasonable safety? Should the regulations be changed, or is it unlikely that anyone else would be tempted to emulate? And finally - and here the regulations surely should apply - what about the non-existent guarding under the handrail?

I write as one who, in happy defiance of building regulations, ran up and down an unguarded spiral stair of my own at least half a dozen times a day for 17 years, before falling off it a month before selling the house. There was a handrail fitted before the new owners could do likewise, and I had only a few bruises to nurse and myself to blame.

I hope Mr Boyarsky's clients are impeccably sure-footed - and prepare Building Regulations regularisation work when the times comes to sell.

Kenneth Lynn, Lowestoft

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