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Scottish government confirms fire safety building standards changes

A ban on the use of combustible materials on the external walls of certain new high-rise buildings will be introduced in Scotland next year, the Scottish government has announced.

The proposed ban is part of a package of measures intended to improve building and fire safety, and follow the recommendations of two independent reviews of the Scottish building standards system commissioned by the Scottish government in September 2017. They will be introduced by way of changes to the building regulations, and to the oversight and enforcement regime.

"The recommendations of the Cole review of compliance and enforcement, and the Stollard review of fire safety, unsurprisingly echoed many of the themes from the Hackitt Review, commissioned by the UK government," said health and safety law expert Katherine Metcalfe of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

The UK government announced its intention to ban the use of combustible cladding on new high-rise buildings in England and Wales last week, with the ban due to come into force on 21 December 2018. The proposed Scottish ban appears to go further: it will apply to buildings of over 11 metres in height, compared to 18m in England and Wales; and will also apply to entertainment and assembly buildings, as well as residential care homes and hospitals of any height. Aluminium composite material (ACM) used for cladding on these buildings must be of European classification A2 or above.

The proposals include extending the mandatory installation of sprinklers in flatted accommodation and in larger multi-occupancy dwellings, and those where care is provided. New residential buildings above 18m in height will also be subject to new standards for evacuation, including sound alerts and a requirement for at least two escape stairwells.

The announcement also confirms that owners or 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. This plan will set out the verifier planned inspection regime. Owners of existing high rise buildings will be required to capture and maintain safety critical information in an electronic database.

New, specific fire safety guidance will be developed for residents of high-rise domestic buildings, while guidance for fire risk assessments will also be introduced. The enforcement guidance will be strengthened, according to the announcement.

"The 'golden thread of information' for new buildings in Scotland will take the form of a documented compliance plan for the design and construction phases of a building, with more stringent verification to ensure that buildings are constructed in accordance with the approved design," said health and safety law expert Katherine Metcalfe.

"For existing buildings, developing and populating a database to capture and maintain safety critical information is an important step, but the work involved in that should not be underestimated," she said.

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