Prepare for the new Building Regulations
Important changes concerning evacuation of buildings are included in the new amended Part B of the Building Regulations. Coming into force in the UK on 1st December 2022, they now include the requirement for evacuation alert systems to be fitted in new, high-rise residential buildings over 18m in England. Ken Bullock, Business Development Manager – Emergency Evacuation Systems at Advanced, explains more.
The updated Approved Document B of the Building Regulations is set to bring clarity and improved fire safety to high-rise residential buildings following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The Grenfell Inquiry found that Building Regulations were deficient in certain areas. It also found that the evacuation of the building was hindered by a lack of an evacuation plan as well as some of the decisions made and features of the building itself.
The Inquiry highlighted that the ‘stay put’ policy at Grenfell should have been backed up with a Plan B that went further than the fire and rescue service knocking on doors. Recommendations from the Inquiry included that both existing and new build high-rise residential buildings be equipped with evacuation alert facilities for use by the fire and rescue service. This led to the creation of BS 8629 in 2019, a code of practice for evacuation alert systems.
This code of practice is now cited in the updated Part B of the Building Regulations which requires evacuation alert systems that adhere to BS 8629 to be installed in all new-build residential blocks over 18m in England. This should give residents in these residential buildings reassurance that if the fire and rescue service needs to tell them to leave the building, the instruction will be communicated clearly and safely, whether by an external alarm or flashing lights.
Evacuation alert systems
The BS 8629 guidance states that an evacuation alert control system should be installed where a ‘stay put’ policy is in force, so that when there needs to be a change in evacuation strategy during an incident, the fire and rescue service are able to inform residents of this change quickly and easily. It provides an additional tool to use on the ground, alongside existing methods of evacuation, improving safety for residents. With a BS 8629 system, evacuation is controlled and targeted floor by floor according to the magnitude and location of the fire enabling the fire and rescue service to evacuate specific areas of the building effectively. These systems also help ensure staircases are not overwhelmed.
Evacuation systems must include audio and/or visual alarm devices in each apartment that can be easily operated by the fire and rescue service from the ground. A series of vertically mounted manual switches typically mirror each floor of the building with each switch incorporating LED technology to indicate whether the evacuation zone is active and to notify of any faults. To fully comply with the standard, the evacuation alert system cannot be integrated with any other element of a fire system. Furthermore, access to an evacuation alert system should be via patented key only – exclusive to the fire and rescue service – and must be clearly marked ‘For Fire and Rescue Service Use Only’.
Advanced was at the forefront of the development of a bespoke BS 8629 solution and first to market with an evacuation alert system. The EvacGo Evacuation Alert System is designed as an easy way to meet BS 8629 and offers peace of mind to those responsible for a building that they are complying with the new Building Regulations. In addition, Advanced is currently one of a handful of manufacturers to offer an evacuation alert system housed within a box specially designed by Gerda Security to meet stringent antitamper standards.
Amended Part B is designed to meet recommendations from Phase One of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. However, since the Grenfell Tower Inquiry also recommends evacuation alert systems for high-rise residential buildings “already in existence”1, further regulation may follow. This would be welcomed by the industry. At Advanced we feel installation of evacuation alert systems should be mandated following a risk-based approach since the risk for occupants might be just as real at 10m as it is at 11m or 18m.
The changes to the Building Regulations have big implications for the people designing, installing or specifying evacuation alert systems so it’s essential to be up-to-date on the changes. Advanced offers a free FIA-certified CPD that explains more about BS 8629, how evacuation alert systems differ from fire detection and alarm systems, and how they are installed differently.
Going forward, ideally an evacuation alert system should be included in the electrical plans from the design stage of residential buildings over 18m so that the system will work seamlessly within the building. As well as ensuring that Building Regulations are met, the system is there to assist the fire and rescue service, and help make the building safer for its residents in the event of a fire.
Advanced’s handy pocket guide to BS 8629 has been produced to help people understand what they need to do to comply and is downloadable at https://bit.ly/3DFtldN.
Written by Ken Bullock, Business Development Manager – Emergency Evacuation Systems at Advanced