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DCLG review of approved documents B and MThe Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is planning to update Approved Documents B (Fire safety), and M (Access to and use of buildings). Before doing this, the DCLG sought the opinions and comments of actual and potential users of the documents to make sure that the new documents will meet their needs. It commissioned NBS Research to carry out this study.

The study was about the usability of the Approved Documents (ADs); not about their technical content or the underlying policy decisions which determine the guidance given. The research objectives were to:

  • Identify the users of ADs B and M
  • Describe their usability needs and requirements
  • Identify how these needs can best be met within the practical and legal confines of the ADs

Three groups were identified for their research

  • Professionals involved with ‘standard’ buildings
  • Professionals involved with ‘non-standard’ buildings
  • Small professionals and ‘Do-It-Yourself-ers’ (DIY-ers)

As a result, a number of recommendations have been made about how any new Approved Documents will look in future.

The recommendations

1. Continue to apply the ‘new style’ to the remaining ADs, and consider introducing larger diagrams, pictures and different colours.

2. Provide more prescriptive guidance making it clear what will comply, including:

  • clear prescriptive guidance for common situations that minimises the need for interpretation
  • making the distinction between prescriptive and non-prescriptive guidance
  • providing references to other approaches, such as British Standards
  • within the ADs, more explanation on how things comply, giving examples

3. Enhance the PDFs of the ADs to include:

  • hyperlinks from contents and index pages
  • easier searching
  • cut and paste
  • update links to referenced documents as they change or add notes to web pages about these changes

4. Develop digital versions of the ADs, such as HTML, that enables:

  • tailoring of guidance so users can find:
    - domestic vs. non-domestic
    - ‘standard’ vs. ‘non-standard’
    - prescriptive vs. non-prescriptive
  • updating of links to referenced documents as they change
  • printing of sections and viewing in PDF format
  • search across all ADs with contextual results; for example, all information relating to stairs

5. Explore ways of automating compliance-checking and linking to BIMs.

6. Review the purpose groups in AD B.

We’ll bring you more news as and when it’s announced.

Further information

The report can be downloaded at:

There's been a huge revival in the building of high-rise development, particularly in cities. As part of this vertical lifestyle, many see the balcony or winter garden as an essential, offering precious private outdoor space.

The 'Fire safety issues with balconies' ​report carried out for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) by BRE Global, found that while thermal design is used to improve energy efficiency and prevent heat loss and thermal bridging, it could also be making balconies a greater fire risk.

The report found that techniques used to meet Building Regulations Approved Document L (conservation of fuel and power) may, in some cases, be compromising the fire safety required by Approved Document B. It points out in a number of case studies, that fires starting on balconies through careless disposal of smoking materials or barbeques could spread across neighbouring balconies, up the building’s entire exterior and to adjacent buildings.

Also highlighted in the report is a lack of available fire design guidance relating to balconies within Approved Document B, except where a means of escape is provided.

The report concludes that the building regulations are open to interpretation in the absence of specific ‘spread of flame’ requirements related to balconies. Therefore, property developers, specifiers, designers, managers and risk assessors all need to be mindful of the potential fire risk.

Download a copy of 'Fire safety issues with balconies'

Further reading: Technical guide: Guide to safe guarding systems to balconies and open walkways in residential buildings