Changes to Scottish high-rise building and fire standards confirmed

Out-Law News | 18 Jul 2019 | 10:14 am | 1 min. read

Changes to building and fire safety standards applicable to new high-rise buildings in Scotland will come into force on 1 October 2019, the Scottish government has confirmed.

The government has amended the 2004 Building (Scotland) Regulations to give effect to the changes. Updated Building Standards Technical Handbooks for both domestic and non-domestic buildings, which explain how to achieve the standards set out in the Building Regulations, also come into force on 1 October.

The changes include new fire resistance requirements for cladding materials used on external walls over 11 metres in height; and new requirements for second escape staircases, evacuation alert systems, storey identification signs and dwelling indicator signs in buildings over 18 metres in height.

The changes follow the recommendations of two independent reviews of the Scottish building standards system commissioned by the Scottish government in September 2017.

Metcalfe Katherine

Katherine Metcalfe

Legal Director

In Scotland, the process of building warrants largely works. Here, the focus will be on making sure that buildings are constructed in accordance with approved plans.

"The Scottish government has closely followed the Hackitt Review of building and fire safety in England, but launched its own reviews, recognising the significant differences in the Scottish approach," said health and safety law expert Katherine Metcalfe of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law. "In Scotland, the process of building warrants largely works. Here, the focus will be on making sure that buildings are constructed in accordance with approved plans."

"In a similar vein to the Hackitt proposals, the reviews commissioned by the Scottish government highlighted competence in fire and structural safety across industry and the regulators as an issue. No specific proposals for Scotland have been developed, and we consider that the English proposals summarised within the UK government consultation will be rolled out by professional bodies throughout the UK," she said.

The Scottish government announced previously that owners and developers of new high-risk buildings in Scotland will be required to prepare and maintain a documented compliance plan for the building from pre-application phase to completion, along with safety critical information. This information will be stored in an electronic database, similar to the 'golden thread' information requirements proposed in England.

Earlier this year, the Scottish government legislated to introduce enhanced standards for smoke alarms, heat alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in new and existing domestic properties, irrespective of ownership, by 1 February 2021. Smoke alarms will have to be installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes and in every circulation space on each storey, along with a heat alarm in every kitchen, with all alarms ceiling mounted and interlinked.

The Scottish government recently commissioned a feasibility study on the need, appropriateness, potential structure and potential operations of a centralised Scottish hub for assisting in the verification of fire safety engineered designs. The review recommended a consultation on the formation of such a hub, and that a system of 'risk categories' for buildings be developed to promote consistency of approach.