The design and construction of buildings is regulated under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014. The building regulations set the minimum performance requirements that a building must achieve, to provide for the health, safety and welfare of people in and about buildings. The building regulations apply to the design and construction of a building, material alterations or extensions of a building, provision of certain services, fittings and equipment and the material change of use of a building. The requirements of the building regulations are set out in 12 parts classified as Parts A to M. Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs) provide guidance on how to comply with the building regulations in practical terms. Where works are carried out in accordance with the guidance, this will, prima facie, indicate compliance with the requirements of the building regulations.
Part B/TGD B of the building regulations deals with Fire Safety. Part B approaches fire safety in buildings from 5 perspectives;
- the provision of a satisfactory means of escape for people in the event of a fire;
- the limiting of fire spread over internal linings;
- the stability of buildings in the event of a fire;
- the limiting of fire spread over external surfaces and to another building; and
- the provision of access and facilities for firefighters.
Construction of buildings, and alterations or changes of use to existing buildings, should comply with the requirements of Building Regulations. Responsibility for compliance lies with those designing and constructing buildings and building works.
In general, buildings which when completed complied with the requirements of Building Regulations, are not required to be altered or upgraded to comply with requirements subsequently introduced, unless the use of the building is materially changed, and the new use attracts new requirements.
Where new works involving material alterations or extensions are carried out to a building, those new works should meet the requirements of the Building Regulations current at the time of the new works or extensions.
Local authorities have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Building Control Acts, the Fire Services Acts, the Housing Acts and the Planning and Development Acts, to ensure that parties discharge their statutory responsibilities.
Fire services inspect buildings in cases of defects or complaints in respect of fire safety. They work with building owners to ensure that immediate risks are addressed and that a plan is put in place, where required, for works to bring buildings into compliance. Local authorities are independent in carrying out these functions.