THE construction industry is being urged to ensure that the practical consequences of the latest guidance on the Approved Document B are understood and implemented, in order to avoid costly delays or breach of building regulations.
The technical changes regarding the fire safety of building elements now limit the use of desktop studies and reinforces the need for appropriate testing on products by independent, fully accredited bodies.
The Document B amendments apply to applications lodged after 21 January 2019, with a requirement that prior applications have had a ‘meaningful’ start on site within two months – by 20 March 2019 – for the previous provisions to be valid.
The guidance is aimed at all product testing, but is a result of the government’s findings last year on cladding testing and fire door testing specifically.
Andy Lowe, technical director of building control at Bureau Veritas, comments: “The government has demonstrated that it is determined to move quickly to enforce building regulation changes, with this latest update coming only a month after the 21 December implementation of the combustible materials ban in external walls in new buildings. That, in itself, surprised many in the industry, as it extended further than anticipated to include all parts of external cladding in new and change-of-use buildings with a floor over 18 metres and above and applies to residential buildings, hospitals, student accommodation and dormitories in boarding schools.
“The latest guidance will have significant ramifications, as the testing is a more in-depth and costly process, notwithstanding the fact that current testing facilities are limited and often result in significant delays, without this extra requirement consideration. This will have to be factored in to the construction programming process.”
The government has also reiterated its endorsement of the Hackitt report. Calls for further evidence have already been instigated on technical aspects of building regulations, which will include additional enhancements on fire safety, considerations around thermal performance and ventilation strategy, along with the need to update accessibility standards under Approved Document M to reflect the new BS8300 recently updated in January 2018.
Andy adds, “The coming months are going to be extremely busy and time critical and as such there is work to be done to understand how things will play out on a practical level, with tailored support available to those who need it in order to manage the changes and challenges ahead.”