New legislation was introduced on 21st December 2018 which specifically relates to the fire requirements of external balconies in England and Wales.
For the first time, balconies are now counted as part of the external wall; and classified as a “specified attachment”.
Government bans the use of combustible materials in buildings over 18m
Amended 1 March 2019
The Government has published amendments to Building Regulations in England restricting the use of combustible materials in the external walls of certain buildings over 18m in height.
The restrictions apply to the external walls and specified attachments for residential blocks of flats, student accommodations, care homes, sheltered housing, hospitals and dormitories in boarding schools with a storey above 18 m in height.
Definitions of external walls and specified attachments
The amendments require that all materials which become part of an external wall or specified attachment achieve European Class A2-s1, d0 or Class A1.
The external wall of a building includes a reference to:
- anything located within any space forming part of the wall
- any decoration or other finish applied to any external (but not internal) surface forming part of the wall
- any windows and doors in the wall
- any part of a roof pitched at an angle of more than 70 degrees to the horizontal if that part of the roof adjoins a space within the building to which persons have access, but not access only for the purpose of carrying out repairs or maintenance.
Specified attachment means:
- a balcony attached to an external wall
- a device for reducing heat gain within a building by deflecting sunlight which is attached to an external wall
- a solar panel attached to an external wall.
Components exempted from this requirement include:
- cavity trays when used between two leaves of masonry
- any part of a roof (other than any part of a roof which falls within paragraph (iv) of regulation 2(6)) if that part is connected to an external wall
- door frames and doors
- electrical installations
- insulation and waterproofing materials used below ground level
- intumescent and fire-stopping materials where the inclusion of the materials is necessary to meet the requirements of Part B of Schedule 1
- seals, gaskets, fixings, sealants and backer rods
- thermal break materials where the inclusion of the materials is necessary to meet the thermal bridging requirements of Part L of Schedule 1
- window frames and glass.
The Amendment Regulations came into force on 21 December 2018. However the Amendment Regulations will not apply where an initial notice has been given to, or full plans deposited with, a local authority before 21 December 2018 and either the building work to which it relates:
a) had started before that day; or
b) was started before 21 February 2019.
Material change of use
Where the use of a building is changed such that the building becomes a residential block of flats, student accommodation, care home, sheltered housing, hospitals or dormitories in boarding schools with a storey above 18 m in height the construction of the external wall, and specified attachments, must be investigated and, where necessary, work must be carried out to ensure they only contain materials achieving European Class A2-s1, d0 or European Class A1 other than those exempted components listed above.
For more on this, please click here to visit the NHBC website.
The government’s official guide to rules on fire safety – Approved Document B – defines products achieving an A1 classification as non-combustible and products achieving an A2 classification as being of limited combustibility. A-class products – those classified A1 and A2 – make no significant contribution to fire growth while products with a rating of B-F are classified as combustible.
The European Classification system for combustibility classifies construction products using a series of tests. Class A materials have the best performance in a fire and are divided into two sub-classes, Class A1 and Class A2.
Class A1 – Products are described as having no contribution to fire at any stage. The BS EN 13501 test sets several thresholds for combustion performance when tested to both EN ISO 1716 and EN ISO 1182. One of these thresholds is a maximum heat of combustion of 2MJ/kg. Typical products meeting this classification include most inorganic materials such as metal, stone, and glass.
Class A2 – Products are described as having no significant contribution to fire at any stage. BS EN 13501 sets several thresholds for combustion when tested to EN ISO 1182, or both EN ISO 1716 and EN 13823. One of these thresholds is a maximum heat of combustion of 3MJ/kg. A typical product meeting this classification is plasterboard.
An A2 certified product has higher combustibility and can sustain flame for no more than 20 seconds. In contrast, A1 has lower combustibility and no sustained flaming when tested.
*These definitions were taken from the Architects Journal, please click here for the full details.