Fire Safety, Social Housing

What are the proposed building regulation changes in Northern Ireland?

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower, a consultation has been held on proposed substantial changes to current building regulations.

Following the consultation, which closed 25th September 2023, the Northern Ireland (NI) government are due to publish their response in “due course”.

If implemented, changes will see amends made to regulations and guidance on residential buildings, primarily blocks of flats. The intended effect of the proposals is to “reduce the consequences of fire through saving lives and preventing injuries”.

What changes do the proposals contain?

Consultation on building regulations in northern ireland

The consultation, published in July 2023 by the Northern Ireland Department of Finance, include:

  • Providing fire safety information to the building owner/occupier
  • The provision of wayfinding signage
  • Evacuation alert systems and secure information boxes
  • Automatic fire suppression in care homes, nursing homes, children’s home and student accommodation (where appropriate)

Extension of smoke alarm coverage

Consultation on building regulations in northern ireland

The proposed consultation contains amendments to uplift fire safety protection measures in a range of buildings. Existing provisions require interconnected and mains powered with battery or capacitor back-up smoke alarms in circulation spaces on each storey of dwellings, in the principal habitable room and a heat alarm in each kitchen. The consultation proposals include at least one smoke alarm to be installed in the circulation route or routes on each storey and in all habitable rooms, and at least one heat alarm in every kitchen.

Under the revised Building Regulations, there will be a new definition of a ‘habitable room’ reading as “any room in a dwelling other than a kitchen, utility room, bathroom, shower room, dressing room or WC.” This will mean a smoke alarm will be required in all bedrooms, living rooms, study, lounge etc.

Proposed new guidance in Technical Booklet E will also cover:

  • Smoke ventilation from common escape routes in blocks of flats with a storey more than 11m high
  • Clarification of requirements for buildings containing flats with a top storey less than 11m above ground level
  • Changes to the provision of firefighting shafts, fire vehicle access distances and fire mains
  • Evacuation alert systems – which enable a fire and rescue service to change the evacuation strategy via an alarm – to be installed in blocks of flats with a storey more than 18m above ground level
  • Wayfinding signage and secure premises information boxes for blocks of flats with a storey more than 11m above ground level

Fire safety measures in buildings established through the local Building Regulations contribute significantly to maintaining life safety standards for occupants/residents and firefighters alike, not to mention the contribution they make in terms of property protection.

For full details on the proposed changes, please view the consultation document on the NI government’s website.