Proposal to make second staircases obligatory

Posted Friday 13th January 2023

On 23 December 2022, the government published a consultation recommending that a second staircase should be required for residential tower blocks over 30 metres (equivalent to ten storeys), a fire safety measure which is estimated to cost businesses £1.6 billion over the next decade.



The 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy catalysed the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. Its purpose was to make recommendations to ensure a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future and for residents to feel continually safe in the buildings they live. To this end, bans on combustible materials used in cladding were applied and new legislation, such as the Building Safety Act 2022 were effected, amongst a range of other measures.

This was the context within which the government’s consultation took place. The measure of a second staircase was proposed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), which stated it was, ‘concerned that some tall residential buildings are being designed with a single staircase without due consideration by the designers on the level of safety provided’. Staircases provide an essential means of escape for residents in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. The DLUHC further states its belief that a second staircase can provide extra ‘resilience for extreme events’ and enable residents to benefit from ‘an alternative means to escape in the event one route becomes filled with smoke’.

The proposed change only relates to England and would not impact existing buildings over 30 metres which have a single staircase. Should it be implemented, the requirement of a second staircase will necessitate a vast overhaul of current architectural, structural, engineering and developer plans in relation to future residential buildings designed to be over 30 metres tall. The proposal, if successful, would set a maximum height for using a single staircase in residential buildings for the first time in England.

The DLUHC will consult on this proposal over a twelve-week period until 17 March 2023 wherein it will ‘review the evidence base and more fully understand the risks’ before making its decision whether or not to implement it.

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.

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