Housebuilders and developers must stay up to date with the latest fire regulations to ensure compliance of a property portfolio is maintained. Here, Simon Jones of Kidde Safety Europe summarises the most recent updates to be aware of.
If you are responsible for a housing development, a robust approach to fire safety is vital to help safeguard residents as well as ensure regulatory compliance. There are many factors that contribute to this overall fire safety strategy – and alarms will have a fundamental role to play.
Despite this, a research survey undertaken in 2021 highlighted that 27% of UK renters did not have a smoke alarm on each storey of their home and private renters (32%) were less likely to have an alarm than social renters (20%). In addition, the research showed that 51% of tenants surveyed did not have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm fitted in their property.
ENGLAND AND WALES
Approved Document B of the Building Regulations for England and Wales stipulates that new builds and any materially altered properties must have interlinked AC smoke alarms on each floor – equivalent to an LD3 alarm system as defined in BS 5839-6:2019. A heat alarm in the kitchen is not a current legal requirement but is recommended in the aforementioned system. Approved Document J was recently amended to expand the requirements for CO alarms. As such, in addition to the requirement that any room with a new or replacement solid fuel appliance must include a CO alarm, it is now a further requirement for a CO alarm to be fitted in any room containing fixed gas and oil-burning appliances (excluding gas appliances solely used for cooking).
Scotland was the first to enhance its regulations for fire safety and under the Housing (Scotland) Act in February 2022. Since then, all homes in Scotland, whether new builds or existing, must have interlinked smoke and heat alarms installed, thus raising the category of protection to LD2. These can be either ceiling mounted or if there is not space and it is allowed by the manufacturer these can be wall mounted. The updates also stipulated:
• One smoke alarm in the living room (or the room that is used most regularly by the occupant)
• One smoke alarm in every hallway or landing
• One heat alarm in the kitchen
• Carbon monoxide alarms with sealed-in or mains-powered batteries that last the full product lifetime installed in rooms where there is a fixed carbon-fuelled appliance or flue, excluding where appliances are used solely for cooking.
With Scotland leading the way and with the wider support of the industry, it is highly likely that England and Wales could follow in implementing Category LD2 as a minimum standard, given the improvements that could be made to occupant safety.
A commonality across all regions is that all new build or materially altered properties in Scotland, England and Wales require mains-powered interlinked alarms. This should help to ensure that occupants will be able to hear the alarm throughout the building – even if they are far from the source of the heat, smoke or fire. By being alerted quickly, this can reduce the time it takes to evacuate to safety. Interlinking the alarms can be achieved either by hard-wired connection or by radio frequency-enabled alarm units.
The responsibility for ensuring that these requirements are put in place lies both with the specifier and housebuilder or developer. It is paramount that these regulations are adhered to before properties are sold entirely or in part to others, such as local authorities or housing associations.
When selecting which alarms to install, we always suggest looking at reputable manufacturers and trusted brands. This means you can be better assured of product quality, that the alarms chosen are manufactured in line with all the relevant standards and will perform as intended in an emergency. It is also vital to check that mains-powered smoke alarms are compliant with EN 14604 and mains-powered heat alarms with BS 5446-2. In addition, a CO alarm should comply with EN 50291-1 for domestic premises.
To further enhance occupant safety, we also recommend that property owners UK-wide implement BS 5839-6, LD2 as a minimum requirement. This includes making sure that heat and smoke alarms have been installed in the correct locations in line with LD2 and that they have been interlinked to each unit. Building owners should ensure that CO alarms are correctly fitted in line with the latest guidance.
Simon Jones is marketing manager at Kidde Safety Europe