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Written by

Josh Waterman

Integrating second staircases poses a challenge for residential developers but should not be a showstopper for development

Housing secretary Michael Gove has announced that 18 meters will be the threshold for new buildings requiring two staircases, which is lower than the original 30 meters which was mooted during last year’s consultation.

Firstly, it should be said it is without a doubt the right approach for fire safety in buildings to introduce second staircases in high rise buildings, particularly given the recommendations of the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report by Dame Judith Hackitt following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Whilst the announcement provides much needed clarity to the industry on the threshold and has removed the uncertainty over 30m or a rumoured lower height, it opens a whole new set of residential developments between 18-30m which will now likely be impacted by this incoming rule.

‘The dilemma for developers is how do you integrate second staircases without compromising saleable floor area’

As we have seen already in the industry, developers who have been impacted by the 30m threshold which has already been adopted in London have had to re-design schemes to incorporate second staircases. Couple this with high inflation and many developers have even taken a decision to pause schemes.

The government face a careful balancing act between meeting housing targets and showing that they can deliver the housing the UK needs, whilst implementing the building safety recommendations which have come out of the Dame Judith Hackitt’s report, hence the government’s haste to confirm that there will be ‘transitional arrangements’ for developments already underway so as not to stifle the construction of new homes. That said, we understand ‘transitional arrangements’ will still require ‘appropriate mitigations’ to be put in place by developers.

The dilemma for developers is how do you integrate second staircases without losing value and compromising saleable floor area which developers have suggested in some cases has made schemes unviable.

But whilst this is a challenge for developers, it should not be seen as a showstopper. It is a good point to remember that some would say the UK is behind the curve, as lots of other countries have already mandate second staircases in high rise buildings and development has not become unviable in other countries because second staircases are required.

We at Building Safety Act Consult have increasingly been working with developers who are integrating second staircases into residential developments to get ahead of the mandate. Using the knowledge of our fire and building control experts, we have helped drive smart but compliant re-design solutions which minimise the loss of saleable area in developments whilst providing a fire safe design, meeting the incoming mandate for two staircases.

Get in touch with us here if you need any support or guidance to tackle this latest challenge on the industrys journey to safer buildings.


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