Clients said to be over-engineering fire safety specifications due to design uncertainty

Clients are insisting on fire safety specifications “well in excess” of what is required for residential schemes due to the government’s delay in providing guidance on how second staircases in blocks above 18m should be designed, according to housebuilders.

The government has still not published guidance on the technical detail, design or specification of staircases despite announcing the policy, originally for blocks above 30m, more than a year ago.

The guidance and updated regulations were widely expected to be published before Christmas but have yet to appear. A source close to DLUHC told Building Design’s sister title Housing Today the regulations could take several more weeks to be published.

A spokesperson for the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) said there is no “definitive timescale” for publication and said it will be up to DLUHC to confirm the specific timeline.

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The Home Builders Federation (HBF) warned that the lack of detail is leading to “significant delays” to the delivery of schemes, especially in London.

Housing Today understands Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) officials are still working on the policy and technical details in collaboration with the BSR.

An HBF spokesperson said: “In the absence of any clear design standards from the government, clients are inevitably insisting on specifications well in excess of what is required for domestic residential schemes.

“The vacuum created is causing huge uncertainty and frustration, increasing costs and amidst a housing crisis, thwarting the delivery of apartment schemes.”

He added that the government has merely made ‘vague high-level announcements’ without providing certainty around the policy. It is understood there is uncertainty around lift provision required.

In October, housing secretary Michael Gove announced a 30-month grace period for complying with the policy from the moment the government confirms the changes to Approved Document B in building regulations.

However, many in the sector feel this is not enough to benefit longer-term, more complex projects.

DLUHC declined to comment.