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, and
- the limiting of fire spread over internal linings, and
- the stability of buildings in the event of a fire, and
- the limiting of fire spread over external surfaces and to another building, and
- the provision of access and facilities for firefighters.
A full and comprehensive review of Part B & TGD B, 2006 has been ongoing for a number of years now.
Following a consultation process on the Part B/TGD B 2006, and in the interests of clarity a decision was made, in 2014, to develop TGD B into two volumes: Volume 1 : Buildings other than dwelling houses and Volume 2: Dwelling Houses.
In 2017, a new Part B/ TGD B Volume 2 was published and came into force on 1 July 2017. This applies to dwelling houses.
Work is progressing on Volume 1 - Buildings other than dwelling houses at present, this volume will include student accommodation, apartments, offices, etc. The issues and ongoing reports on the Grenfell fire are important sources of information for this work. The review also considers common and emerging building trends, international developments and events, matters relating to external fire spread, external fire resistance, internal fire resistance, cladding systems, sprinklers, etc. It is intended to publish a draft for public consultation in 2020.
In parallel with the full review, my Department is preparing additional guidance to TGD B 2006 on open plan apartments, which will be published shortly. Currently there is no guidance in the TGD on this increasingly popular form of apartment design. This will provide both local authorities and industry with greater clarity on how to demonstrate compliance with Part B for open plan apartments, promote greater consistency across the country and streamline the process for demonstrating compliance.
Separately, following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, in June 2017, I established a Fire Safety Task Force to examine fire safety in Ireland. As part of the work of the Task Force, my Department requested fire services to identify medium-to-high rise (greater than eighteen metres, or greater than six storeys in height) buildings fitted with cladding systems. Fire services were also asked to consider whether use of their power under section 18(6) of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 – to require the person having control over the building to carry out a fire safety assessment of the building, including the cladding system – was warranted.
Countrywide, fire safety assessments were required in respect of 210 buildings – including 103 residential buildings. To support these assessments, as part of the work of the Task Force, guidance was developed and issued in December 2017. The guidance provides information on methods and standards to be used in assessment of cladding systems, as well as interim fire safety measures for application, pending completion of remedial works to cladding systems, where necessary. The guidance will be of assistance to those carrying out assessments, as well as to fire services who appraise assessments provided to them in respect of identified buildings.
The most recent information provided to my Department by fire services indicates that, so far, eight buildings have been identified where some remedial works to cladding systems will be necessary.