Sweeney Architects

Safety First

If you are building a new house, one area that you need to pay serious attention to is the safety requirements in case of a fire. Here we will deal with building regulations, and especially with Part B, which sets out general requirements for fire safety in buildings. In order to make sure that you have some sort of protection, the Building regulation has set out rules that you have to comply to for your new house mainly relate to means of escape should fire occur, and fire systems.

In relation to means of escape, the internal layout should always provide the occupants with an escape route. In a situation where the house is over two floors, the stairs should be located within 4.5 metres of the external door and under no circumstances should the stairs be located in the kitchen. There should be windows or doors suitable for escape or rescue in all habitable rooms on the upper floor. The window should have an unobstructed opening section which can provide an unobstructed clear open area of at least 0.33m squared with a minimum width and height of 450mm and the bottom of the window opening should be between 800mm to 1100mm above the floor.

In case of doors, they should open onto a balcony with a protective barrier. If the house is on more than two floors, additional protection is necessary and they include provisions of self-closing fire doors and at least half an hour fire resistance for the floors.

Appropriate fire system or alarm should be installed in all houses and they should comply with provisions of BS 5839: part 6-2004. In addition, there should be proper detectors throughout the house in case of a fire and they should be located on the ceiling at least 300 mm from the wall and any light fittings.

It is important to note that in new houses battery powered (Grade F) systems are no longer acceptable and only mains powered detectors should be used. You should get further advice on this matter from your architect or qualified safety consultant before you start your build.

Equally if you are planning to extend your house, then the new extension or attic conversion may have to comply with Part B of the Building Regulations. Whether your existing house is a two storey or a bungalow will impact on which aspects of the building regulations should be adhered to in the conversion. It is important to note that if you are converting an attic above a two storey, certain building regulations will come into play relating to the existing to the existing doors and even ceilings. Fire doors are required to new habitable areas and the lining of stairwell and extension of fire alarm system is also considered. Some but not all of these issues are exempt to bungalows converting their attic space.