Fire Safety Act 2021

The Fire Safety Act 2021 is the result of the Grenfell tragedy in 2017. Its intention is to protect all multi-occupied dwellings. It is not limited to a certain building height so it applies to all buildings with sleeping accommodation apart from single dwellings. 

This Act amends the current Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO).

We have included a brief summary only.  Please note that this website section is UNDER CONSTRUCTION and the final draft may change.

Enforcement

Fire & Rescue Service

The new Act allows the Fire & Rescue Service to enforce against non-compliance for breaches in relation to the external walls and the flat-entry doors opening into the common areas.  Common areas include corridors, escape routes, landings, hallway, lobbies, etc.

External Walls

Lessons have been learnt following the Grenfell tragedy with relation to the construction of the external walls of a building. Certain types of cladding have been banned such as Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). Balconies and other external features are now under scrutiny and must comply with the Act including the construction and location on a building. 

The external wall system (EWS) when assessed for fire-risk includes every layer and part of the wall right down to the wallpaper on the interior to the weathering exterior. Windows and exterior doors are included in the legislation.

Balconies stacked vertically are seen as high-risk for fire spread if they are constructed of certain materials. Timber balcony decking laid with air-gaps is regarded as high-risk for the spread of flames and smoke. Inset balconies are a risk due to heat build-up in the recess. Other exterior features such as brise soleil, solar panels and suchlike come within the legislation.

External Wall Assessors are being trained up by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).  We are proud to be amongst the chartered building surveyors in the Government-backed course. At this time we expect the course to be completed sometime in July/August 2021. 

Upon completion of the course we shall be able to assess buildings lower than 18 metres high (to the uppermost floor) for a EWS1 assessment and associated report. The Government is providing professional indemnity insurance for EWS assessors so we shall have the requisite insurance cover.

Fire Doors

One of several major failings in the Grenfell building were the inadequate fire doors between the domestic premises and the common areas. These doors are now legislated more closely and must comply with, for example, the following:

  • Constructed of solid wood at least 44mm thick. If there are inset panels these must not make the thickness less than 44mm.
  • Tested and stamped as approved Fire Doors to British Standards or equivalent, and having a minimum fire-resistance of 30 minutes subject to the building type and Building Regulations. The certification should be either TRADA's Q-Mark Scheme or BWF's Certifire scheme. There should be three hinges which bear the CE mark and with all screws in place and tight.
  • Fitted with self-closing devices that shut the door fully in the opening
  • Fitted with intumescent strips (to the frame/lining or the actual door) around the three sides of the door, that expand and form a heat and smoke barrier in the event of a fire
  • No gap around the door may be more than 4mm, or 8mm on the bottom edge. If daylight can be seen under the door the gap is most likely too big.
  • Plastic/Upvc doors are not currently acceptable as Fire Doors
  • The door stops must be no less than 25mm thick.
  • Letter plates/openings must be resistant to flame and smoke spread and cat or dog-flaps are unlikely to comply.

Fire-resistant doors to flat entrances are very important.  If a fire starts within a dwelling it can be contained for 30 minutes (for example) by a fire door.  This would prevent smoke and flames spreading throughout the building. Equally, if a fire starts in a common area (much less likely) the dwellings are protected for the relevant period, allowing the Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) to attend. There is generally a "stay put" recommendation in the event of a fire so the fire resisting door allows time for the FRS to put out the fire.

Assessing fire doors is essential but difficult to do properly without opening them so residents must facilitate a full inspection, for their own safety. This inspection would be part of a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) that we can provide.

Responsible Person

Responsible Persons (RP) should by now have reviewed their Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) to ensure they cover the external facades and individual entry doors in accordance with the Act and, importantly implement the necessary changes and remedial works ASAP. 

At Albion we can carry out a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) to include the common parts of the building, excluding the habitable areas, all in accordance with current legislation. For a detailed breakdown of what a FRA includes contact us.

The "Responsible Person" (RP), is the relevant duty holder under the legislation and may be the building owner/freeholder or their representative managing agent. There may be more than one RP. Their duty is to assess, manage and reduce the fire risks posed by the structure and external walls, including cladding, balconies and windows and individual doors opening onto common parts of the building.

Multi-residential buildings

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Harrow flats
Harrow flats

The new legislation affects domestic buildings of all sizes, shapes and heights. At Albion Architecture & Surveying we are currently training as fire assessors for buildings up to 18 metres high to the uppermost habitable floor.

This building has stacked balconies but they are constructed of steel so they are low-risk for fire spread. There is no high-risk external cladding either.

The cavity walls should have cavity barriers, and these could need investigation.

 Traditional construction like this often means that a EWS1 form is not required according to the RICS recommendations.  However, lending institutions may ignore the RICS and insist on a EWS1 being issued.

London flats
London flats

.This London block of flats has no high-risk cladding or external balconies.

It does have brickwork to parts of the exterior so cavity barriers may need assessing by opening-up the wall in various specific locations. 

The internal, flat entry doors would have to be fully assessed as previously described.

Note that a Fire Risk Assessment internally only includes the common parts not the individual flats.

Watford flats
Watford flats

This 3-storey block of flats in Watford is considered a low-risk under the new Fire Safety Act 2021. It has brick outer walls and is significantly less than 18 metres high. There is no inflammable cladding on the exterior.

However the cavity brickwork outer walls should have cavity barriers so an invasive investigation could be required for the assessment of the external wall system. This would be a risk-based decision by the assessor.

The individual flat entry doors would need assessing as part of a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA). The FRA would also include other elements such as means of escape, fire hazards, warning system, etc.