The 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.
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.
The report can be downloaded at: