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Building Relationships

New Government Advice on Buildings with Balconies

24th June saw the publication of a new MHCLG guidance note. This advice note is written for residents and building owners of residential buildings with multiple dwellings (i.e. blocks of flats), although the principles may also apply to other building types. The note concerns the risks arising from balconies on residential buildings and unlike Advice Note 14 does not apply specifically to buildings over 18m in height.


Whereas Advice Note 14 dealt with the construction of external walls, the latest guidance considers the effects of balconies made from combustible materials; these can contribute to the spread of fire across a façade or fire spread between balconies.

 

Building owners need to understand the materials used in the construction of balconies and consider, as part of any fire risk assessment, the potential for any horizontal and vertical fire spread due to their arrangement with the external wall. Removal and replacement of any combustible material is considered to prevent external fire spread from balconies – and this should occur as soon as practical.

 

Of course, activities such as the storage of flammable materials, smoking and lighting barbeques also increase the risk of fire and building owners are now encouraged to inform residents about the risks and discourage such activity.

 

The 2018 amendments to the Building Regulations required balconies on buildings over 18m to be made of non-combustible materials; but on buildings of all heights the risks arising from combustible materials on balconies need to be assessed – effectively a further consideration for those already struggling to cope with the implications of Advice Note 14.

 

The legacy of woeful construction over the last few years will continue to have far reaching consequences and will take many more years to wash through. The question of paying for the necessary alterations is a major concern; whilst Government funding may help those dealing with ACMs. The issues for leases and management companies are significant, particularly with no available sources of cash and hard pressed leaseholders caught in a trap of unmarketable properties and potential service charges that are challenged by the need for fire wardens and the prospect of major cladding works.

 

There are no easy answers to the problem but the construction industry must face up to its responsibilities; its record is dismal. Whilst retrospective action provides opportunities for the lawyers and experts; it’s up to everyone involved with construction to wise up to the problems and see to it that standards are not allowed to fall again.

 

The Advice Note can be downloaded from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/balconies-on-residential-buildings-advice-note

 

If you would like further information please contact Trevor Rushton on 020 7280 8000 or email trevor.rushton@watts.co.uk

The Watts Bulletin is the technical companion to the Watts Pocket Handbook, the essential guide to property and construction, as used by professionals since 1983.

Watts Bulletin editor: Trevor Rushton.