Approved Document B – No simple answer
Approved Document B (fire safety) of the Building Regulations has seen a number of changes over the years. Many have interpreted the amendments as being prescriptive, but the situation can be far less straightforward and leaves scope for interpretation in certain circumstances.
Martyn Whieldon, sales director at Samuel Heath, looks at the key areas concerning the use of door closers in homes (dwellinghouses) and residential buildings:-
In the fifty-plus years that Samuel Heath has been involved in the design and manufacture of concealed door closers – our Powermatic, Perko and Perkomatic brands are the preferred choice of architects, designers and specifiers throughout many sectors of the building industry – there have been many changes in the market, particularly where performance standards and regulations are concerned.
In addition to considerable investment in product development, Samuel Heath has placed great importance on the need to invest time and effort into ensuring that the market is properly informed about the implications of such standards and regulations.
It is with this aim of objectivity that we present this brief guide to the requirements stipulated by Approved Document B (AD B) relating to the use of door closers on fire doors.
Everyone involved in the specification, use and control of fire safety measures will be aware of AD B and the various changes that it has undergone over the years. Where door closers are concerned, we feel that these changes may have caused some confusion in the market and that the situation is far less clear-cut than many would have us believe. With this in mind, we offer the following points in explanation of the relevant parts of the document:
Approved Document B – Houses
Houses with a floor more than 4.5m above ground level – for example, 3-storey town houses or 2-storey houses which have added a loft conversion, effectively converting the dwelling to 3 storeys – do not need to have door closers fitted on doors to the stairs.
However, the guidance in AD B Volume 1 Appendix B still asks for a door closer on a fire door leading to an attached or integral garage. (Concealed door closers remain the preferred choice of many specifiers in such situations as they are often more convenient to install and accommodate, and impact much less on the aesthetics of the dwelling).
Where a ‘dwellinghouse’ is more than 18m in height, AD B suggests that guidance given in Volume 1 may need to be supplemented with guidance from Volume 2 of the Document.
Approved Document B – Flats
With respect to individual flats, AD B Volume 2 asks for door closers to be fitted to the flat’s front entrance door (see Appendix B).
Common corridors connecting two or more storey exits should be sub-divided by a self-closing fire door. Likewise, a dead-end portion of a corridor should be separated from the rest of the corridor by a self-closing fire door and corridors more than 12m long should be sub-divided by self-closing fire doors. These fire doors should be fitted with door closing devices that are CE marked, signifying compliance with BS EN 1154, such as our own Powermatic.
Doors which could provide a route for smoke to by-pass a sub-division of a corridor should be self-closing, although not necessarily fire-resisting.
Where a dead-end part of a corridor provides access to alternative escape routes, every dead-end corridor of more than 4.5m in length should be protected by a self-closing fire door, unless protected by a pressurisation system meeting BS EN 12101. Again, CE-marked door closing devices will need to be used.
Approved Document B – Residential buildings
For buildings described as “residential” (i.e. a hotel, boarding house, hostel, student accommodation, care home, etc.), CE-marked self-closing devices need to be provided to all fire doors (except cupboards and service ducts, or where specifically exempted).
It should also be noted that, whatever the type of building, self-closing devices must be able to close the door from any angle and against any latch. Rising butt hinges that do not meet these criteria will now only be acceptable in cavity barriers (see Definitions in Appendix E of AD B).
However, AD B gives generic guidance of one way of meeting the functional requirements of the Building Regulations for a range of common building situations. There may be some buildings which, because of their specific design or their intended use, would need different or additional fire safety measures to be put in place.
An example of this is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), as defined by the Housing Act 2004. The guidance that supports this makes clear that a building’s “design and construction should help contain and limit the spread of fire. Internal doors (including entrance doors to flats) should be made of appropriate materials and properly fitted, and, where appropriate, fitted with self-closers.”
The licensing of HMOs is overseen by the Local Authority (typically Environmental Health Officers) who may require additional fire safety precautions over and above that contained in AD B guidance because of the increased risk of fire. For example, they may ask for doors to bedrooms to be self-closing fire doors because they are separating private areas from common parts, or for such doors to be fitted to a communal kitchen because of the increased fire risk.
Building Control Officers will determine whether fire prevention measures are adequate and appropriate, taking into account the nature of the intended use of a particular building at the time that the building work is carried out. But if the use changes once the building is occupied – for example, if a large house starts being used as an HMO – additional measures may be required to deal with any increase in risk.
The legislation which controls ongoing fire safety is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into effect on 1 October 2006. It applies to both new and existing non- domestic buildings and the common parts of blocks of flats and HMOs. It puts a legal obligation on the “responsible person” (usually the landlord in the case of a block of flats or an HMO) to carry out a risk assessment of the building and, where necessary, to provide additional fire safety measures.
It is, therefore, quite obvious that every building, particularly flats and HMOs, will need its fire safety requirements assessed on a case by case basis. In addition to a plethora of other criteria, decisions on what door closers to fit to which doors need to be made according to the building’s use, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the requirement for door closers on fire doors simply will not do.
Approved Document B – Residential care homes
AD B (3.48 & 3.51) states that bedrooms in residential care homes should be fitted with fire-resisting doors.
For more details on choosing a door closer, visit our Choosing a Closer page.
For details on specific areas of application, the following provide further information:
Alternatively, contact our specification team, who will provide advice on product selection and use in specific situations.