UNDERSTANDING FIRE LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS FOR APARTMENTS

Irish Construction Industry Magazine asked leading law firm LK Shields to outline the essential elements of current fire safety legislation for apartments and multi-storey buildings.

If there was one defining moment within the construction industry in 2017 it was the Grenfell Tower disaster. On 14 June 2017 a fire started by a faulty fridge freezer on the fourth floor of this Kensington residential block quickly engulfed the 24-storey block.

The external use of composite foam insulation is believed to have contributed to the rapid spread of the fire which tragically claimed the lives of at least 85 people.
The aftershock of the inferno was acutely felt in Ireland. The Dáil Éireann held an emergency debate in relation to Building Standards, Regulations and Homeowner Protection. During the debate it was acknowledged that “thousands of people in Ireland have been affected by poor quality housing following the building boom of the past 20 years.”

Indeed, it has been reported that many apartment blocks constructed during the building boom of the Celtic tiger years did not comply with fire regulations. One such development which brought building construction issues to light in Ireland was the Priory Hall development in Dublin in 2011. Numerous breaches of building regulations had taken place in the construction of this development. These included very serious fire safety non-compliance issues which resulted in a large number of families having to evacuate their homes due to the extent of the non-compliance.
It is now more relevant than ever for designers, builders, owners and managers to ensure that they are fully informed and compliant with their legal obligations in relation to fire safety. In this article we set out a summary of some key legal considerations:

The principal regulatory framework for fire safety in building standards in Ireland is to be found within the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007 and the Regulations made pursuant to them, in particular the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2006 and the Building Regulations (Part B Amendment) regulations 2017 (the “Regulations”). The Regulations apply to both the design and construction of a new Building. A full fire safety certificate is required for any apartment block constructed after 1992 and the minimum performance requirements that a building must achieve with respect to fire safety are set out in Part B of the second schedule to the building regulations. These include the following:
A building must be designed and constructed so that:
• there are adequate means of escape in case of fire;
• external walls, roof and internal linings offer adequate resistance to the spread of fire and a resistance to ignition; and
• In the event of fire its stability will be maintained for a reasonable period.

For a more extensive article see our July/August 2017 Issue of Irish Construction Industry Magazine available on subscription, contact Linda Doran accounts@mcdmedia.ie