The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and the Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell, have launched a three-month public consultation on proposed amendments to Building Regulations relating to fire safety. The proposed changes aim to improve fire safety in new buildings and support the re-use of existing buildings by simplifying, clarifying and rationalising fire safety requirements.
The review is also a key action of the government’s Housing for All plan, which commits to an ongoing review of Building Regulations to drive compliance and standards through regulatory reform. Fire safety regulations for dwelling houses were updated in 2017. These regulations relate to fire safety requirements in all other buildings.
In addition to improving fire safety and supporting the re-use of existing buildings, the proposed technical guidance:
- Consolidates fire safety design of buildings into one seamless document.
- Introduces a range of design options to enhance flexibility, while maintaining minimum fire safety standards in the built environment that must be adhered to.
- Modernises Irish fire safety provisions, in line with international practice.
- Strengthens safety provisions for the most vulnerable building users – older persons, and buildings where people sleep, for example: flats, hotels, institutional buildings, buildings with very fast fire growth rates.
- Strengthens requirements relating to facades to inhibit the spread of fire on the face of a building.
- Aligns regulations with Irish policy and practice in respect of fire safety in buildings, such as evacuation policy.
Urging people to submit their views, Minister O’Brien said, “this review of fire safety in Ireland is vital in order to keep pace with the new and innovative ways we design and construct buildings. The proposals will also support the re-use of existing buildings, which will help in our aim of tackling vacancy and dereliction across our cities, towns and villages.”
“Several developments have necessitated this review of our current building code: the construction of taller and larger buildings with more complex layouts; the use of new building systems and materials; and the installation of modern heating and ventilation systems. The improvements in energy performance have also necessitated this review. The industry needs fire safety guidance that is readable, understandable and readily implementable. I strongly encourage all those who may be impacted by the proposals to make their views known to the department.”
Minister O’Donnell said, “the implementation of these proposals will ensure that our buildings are designed in such a way that people can continue to safely evacuate, in case of fire and that occupants are reasonably protected from the effects of an outbreak of fire in a building. In addition, these proposals will support the re-use of existing buildings by simplifying, clarifying and rationalising fire safety requirements for such buildings.”
The draft proposal takes into account:
- Common and emerging building trends in commercial and residential buildings.
- Developments and events from a global perspective.
- Matters relating to external fire spread; external fire resistance; internal fire resistance.
- Cladding systems, sprinklers.
- Ongoing review into the Grenfell fire.