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RIBA tells government to widen new fire regs beyond residential towers

Grenfell in green
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The RIBA is calling on the government to widen the scope of new building regulations to include other high-risk, non-residential buildings of any height

In its response to the government consultation, Building a Safer Future, on proposals to improve safety and minimise the risk of fire in high-rise buildings, the institute has recommended that, as well as residential buildings of 18m and above, the new regime should also apply to other buildings.

These include supported and sheltered housing, care homes, hospitals, hotels, hostels, prisons, detention centres, schools and places of assembly during the design and construction phase.

The RIBA also urged the government to designate the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB) to oversee enhanced competence requirements of architects, arguing that, as the regulator, it should be responsible for the accreditation and licensing of qualifying bodies for architects, including the RIBA.

This latest consultation on proposed reforms to building safety regulations in England, which closed on Wednesday (31 July), builds on recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The proposals cover: the scope of the new regime; the concept of dutyholders, who have responsibility throughout a building’s design, construction and occupation; plans for a new building safety regulator; giving residents a stronger voice; and strengthening enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regulations.

The proposed changes would apply to residential buildings over 18m in height, rather than the ‘10 storeys’ (approximately 30m) suggested by Hackitt.

The RIBA welcomed this tighter regulation but expressed concern that England still lagged behind other countries, including Wales and Scotland, in standards for high-rise and other higher-risk buildings.

The institute is urging the government to ensure that all technical guidance issued to the industry be improved by the proposed building safety regulator, a new overseer role which will have ‘effective oversight of the regulatory system’. It is also recommending that significant changes are made to the proposed responsibilities for dutyholders, which it suggests are ‘not clearly defined’ and ‘not currently workable as set out in the consultation’.

Jane Duncan, chair of the RIBA expert advisory group on fire safety, said: ‘Although a step in the right direction, the government’s proposals do not go far enough to protect the public and more work is needed, particularly to more clearly define the statutory duties of all involved in the industry.’

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