Higher Standards for the High Rise
29th April 2019
The Hackitt Report and Higher Standards for the High Rise
The ripple-effect following Grenfell is starting to be felt. Whilst the fallout from those fateful events on 14th June 2017 have been far-reaching, meaningful change has been slow.
The Hackitt Report in the wake of Grenfell called for a shake-up of the regulatory system. However it stopped short of recommending a ban on using combustible materials in cladding systems. Instead, changes to the Building Regulations in December 2018 introduced new stricter criteria for the materials used in the construction of external walls. The new minimum requirement is for materials to be tested to European Standard (BS EN 13501-1), rather than a national standard. Approved materials must now be rated A2-s1, d0 or A1. This effectively bans the use of combustible materials in external wall systems for high-rise buildings.
Will these new regulations apply to you?
The new Regulations will only apply to buildings over 18m that contain:
- one or more dwellings
- an institution
- a room for residential purposes (excluding any room in a hostel, hotel or boarding house).
In practical terms,
- Anyone adding an additional floor to a building taking it above 18m or converting a high rise from office to residential use, will be required to consider the external walls of the whole building. Any existing materials in the external walls which don’t meet the new requirements would have to be removed.
- Anyone with an approved Building Regulations application who hasn’t yet commenced on site (cut off date 21 February 2019), will find themselves having to re-design to meet the new standards, regardless of whether their original application met the standards which were current at that time.
- Anyone adding an extension to a high rise, even if the extension is less than 18m, will have to consider and investigate the external walling system of the new and original building.
Higher Standards- Benefits and Challenges
Changes in the Building Regulations around high-rise buildings could drive up standards on a broader level. Developers may decide that they will futureproof their high-rise office buildings by designing to the new standards, even where they don’t have to, in case of future conversion to residential use.
The risk-averse insurance industry is also having its say, deciding what it will or won’t insure and pushing for better standards, sometimes beyond what is required by the Building Regulations. The investigations following Grenfell have raised numerous questions around how building materials are certified as safe for use and how they are installed and signed off by Building Control Authorities.
The new regulations are prescriptive and have provided clarity on what can and can’t be used.
One of the problems created by the change has been the relative lack of materials tested to the European standard. Finding vapour membranes, for example, that meet the required standard has been problematic.
Not everyone has welcomed the clampdown on high rise materials. The use of engineered wood or CLT (cross-laminated timber) for high-rise buildings was starting to gain momentum. There was even talk of the first CLT skyscraper. However, the use of CLT for residential buildings over six storeys is no longer permitted under the new regulations. This is an undoubted setback for those championing the green benefits of this modern method of construction.
Here to help
If you are unsure whether the new regulations apply to your building project, or if you are looking at purchasing a high-rise building and want to know where you stand, why not contact us at MacConvilles Surveying?
For further information on how the changes affect you contact us and speak to one of our Surveyors today.