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Balcony Fires – What’s Happened?

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell on 14th June 2017, the government conducted a complete review of the claddings used on high rise residential buildings.

The result of this review was the introduction of significant changes to the relevant legislation including a combustible cladding ban

Current Regulations & Compliance

Summary of relevant documents used in compiling our balcony fire safety whitepaper:

1. Approved Document B2: 2013 (fire safety) volume 2: buildings other than dwelling houses (2006 edition incorporating the 2010 and 2013 amendments)

2. BS 9991: 2015 Fire safety in the design, management and use of residential buildings – Code of practice

3. C Holland, M Shipp and D Crowder, Fire safety issues with balconies, BRE Global Ltd 2016.

4. Centre for window and cladding technology, Standard for systemised building envelopes, Part 6, Fire performance, Sept 2008.
5. British Standard EN 1365-5: 2004 Fire resistance test for loadbearing elements-Balconies and walkways.

6. Fire performance data for aluminium extrusion can be obtained from the results of BS 476 Fire Test Series. Subject to a severe fire emerging from an apartment the aluminium would be expected to weaken (and melt at 660 deg. C).

What are Sapphire doing to minimise risk of balcony fires?

In order to better understand the protective effect of soffits on the balcony in the event of a fire, we have commissioned some balcony fire safety testing at the Exova test centre in Warrington. For one of these tests, a full-size balcony Cassette® was constructed to fit the furnace size. This was fitted with class C decking (the least non-combustible product currently used by Sapphire), and a variety of soffit panels were fitted so the relative effect of these could be monitored.

You can learn more about what we’re doing by attending a 15min Balcony Safety Presentation.

Sapphire advocate the use of aluminium soffits on all balconies. However, where soffits have been omitted or are perforated (for architectural or cost reasons) there is a clear evidence to suggest the use of class A decking should be considered to reduce the risk of rapid balcony fire development.

Further details can be found in our recently published balcony safety whitepaper. Request your copy below

Book a Presentation Today!

Our 15min balcony fire Presentation looks at current case studies of the balcony fires that have happened in recent years, explores common causes and how these can be designed out. It also gives clarity on the current fire regulations and our active product development. These solutions are above what is currently required but will give advice on what balcony building regulations we will likely need to meet in the future.

Book Yours Today!

WHITEPAPER: Recommendations regarding fire safety on balconies in high rise residential blocks.

 

Due to the increase in balcony fires during June and July 2018, aided by the heatwave, we have completed some in-depth research around the current balcony building regulations, understanding recent balcony fires, common causes for balcony fires and our recommendations to reduce the risk of fire on your balcony(ies).

 

Ban on combustible balcony materials

Did you know that the government recently announced it is banning combustible materials on new high-rise homes? This means that cladding and balconies on buildings over 18m high will have to be fire resistant, achieving class than A2-s1, d0 or Class A1 (under the European classification system set out in the standard BS EN 13501-1) subject to exemptions.

Up until now regulations have allowed cladding to Class B and balconies were not regulated unless they formed part of an escape route. However, the regulations have been laid in parliament on 29 November 2018 which will give legal effect to the ban that was initially announced this summer. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) said in The House of Commons on Thursday November 29 2018:

“We recognised the strength of feeling on combustible cladding and having consulted, announced a clear ban on the use of combustible materials on the external walls of new buildings over 18 metres containing flats, as well as new hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation over 18 metres. Today regulations have been laid to give legal effect to the ban.”

The ban became effective from 21st December 2018, however it does not apply to buildings retrospectively and also does not apply to buildings where full plans are in AND work started by 21st February 2019.

To help our clients and partners understand the effects of this ban we have recently published a Summary Document ‘Combustible cladding ban: The answers you need to; when, what, why and how it effects balcony design?’

Read Sapphire’s Complete Summary Document

Frequently asked questions (cladding ban FAQ’s)

 

1. Does this regulation apply to the interlayer in laminated glass

a. Balustrades are not specifically mentioned. However our understanding is that the glass and interlayers of glass balustrades is exempt. Sapphire are writing to the government requesting written clarification of this point.
b. Exclusions include ‘window frames and GLASS’ and 12.14d confirms this includes laminated glass.

2. Does this apply to decking on a terrace on buildings over 18m

a. The primary legislation states ‘the roof of the building shall…resist the spread of fire…’
b. The new regulations relate specifically to walls and attachments thereto.
c. It would be prudent to consider the advantages of class A2 decking in these situations.

3. Can I still have lights in the decking or soffit, or attach products like PV panels to the balcony?

a. There is a specific exemption for electrical equipment, so this would allow for lights in soffit or decking.

4. Does the Sapphire thermal break comply with the new regulations

a. Yes they do. The requirements of maintaining a fire barrier at this junction is important.

5. Will this apply to my current projects;

a. Whilst the ban starts on 21/12/2018, it does not apply retrospectively and not if full plans are in AND work is started by 21/02/2019. We would recommend being an early adopter anyway.

6. How does the 18m Rule apply?

a. If the building is over 18m the whole façade and balconies need to be of a minimum of Class A2-s1,d0 (not just the parts of the building which are over 18m)
b. Buildings under 18m in height are able to use materials which aren’t class A. That said, we would recommend that it is prudent to consider class A anyway and we would strongly advise a minimum of a class B decking with a Class A soffit.

Want to know more?

We also present our Fire CPD to architects, developers, and contractors, etc. If you would like to find out about attending one or arranging one at your offices visit https://sapphire.slg-development.co.uk/resources/balcony-firecpd/

What are you going to do to understand fire risks further?

If you’d like more information on our balcony fire research, you can request a 15min presentation, download our fire whitepaper or book a meeting with a balcony fire expert using the form below.

Balcony Fire Resource Form

Please use this form to request a fire whitepaper, fire safety presentation, a meeting with one of our experts or a callback.

Fire Resource Form
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