Focus continues on residents safety with yet another fire in a housing block in South West London last month. So looking at the design elements in the construction of a new build or existing residence, how can you evaluate the risks arising from the materials used for balconies?
Balconies made with combustible materials are a potential source of rapid fire spread on the external wall/facade or residential buildings and can spread to the adjacent buildings or into the building. This risk is further increased if combustible materials are used extensively in the rest of the building.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government position and the Expert Panel’s view, is that the removal and replacement of any combustible material used in balcony construction is the clearest ways to prevent external fire spread from balconies with Paragraph B4 of Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 2010 sets out that: ‘The external walls of the building shall adequately resist the spread of fire over the walls and from one building to another, having regard to the height, use and location of the building. Balconies on new buildings in the revisions to the Building Regulations requires balconies on new residential buildings over 18 meters to be made of non-combustible materials classified as A1 or A2-s1, d0.
Where there is doubt over the materials used or risk presented, building owners should always seek professional advice from an appropriately qualified and competent professional (i.e. a fire engineer or construction specialist with significant knowledge of fire safety.
The risk of fires on balconies can also increase due to usage of this area. A significant number of fires start with the unsafe disposal of smoking materials and the misuse of barbacues. The 2016 BRE Report on Fire Safety Issues with Balconies’ concludes that ‘Managers and Risk assessors all need to be mindful of the potential fire risk associated with fires on balconies from their incorporation in to the building.
The Outdoor Deck – REIF DuraLink Class A Fire-Rated External Decking and Paving System product specification complies with new UK Building Regulations on fire safety and is Class A fire rated. The new range also meets European EN1305 standards. The flooring system can be used with other fire-rated compatible materials such as porcelain and concrete pavers.
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