Publication - Advice and guidance

Building standards technical handbook 2019: non-domestic

The building standards technical handbooks provide guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. This handbook applies to a building warrant submitted on or after 1 October 2019 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

Building standards technical handbook 2019: non-domestic
2. Fire

2.14 Fire and rescue service facilities

Mandatory Standard

Standard 2.14

Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that facilities are provided to assist fire-fighting or rescue operations.

2.14.0 Introduction

Facilities within a building are provided to assist the fire and rescue service carry out their statutory duties as efficiently and safely as possible. Fire and rescue service personnel are trained to enter buildings following the outbreak of fire to assist with any evacuation of the building occupants, effect rescues of any casualties and to fight fires. Fire-fighters operational duties are made on a statutory basis in the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 as amended, which states:

“Each relevant authority shall make provision for the purpose of –

  1. extinguishing fires in its area

  2. protecting life and property in the event of fires in its area.”

The extent of fire development will vary with each incident and in any situation, the fire and rescue service will assess the need to evacuate the entire building whilst the fire is brought under control. Sometimes, the fire can develop to such an extent that additional fire-fighting teams may need to be summoned from other fire stations or fire authorities.

Fire-fighters will normally enter a building through the main entrance and attempt to attack the fire. This is termed ‘offensive fire-fighting’ and is normal practice regardless of whether people are in the building or not. When conditions within the building become too hazardous for fire-fighters to remain, they will normally retreat a safe distance away from the building and implement ‘defensive’ fire-fighting tactics to control the spread of fire. In cases where a large fire develops, numerous fire-fighting teams may be involved using a combination of offensive and defensive tactics until the fire is brought under control and extinguished.

Whilst fire-fighters are professionally trained to deal with all types of fire condition, the fire and rescue service facilities within a building are important to reduce fire attack time which in turn, could save lives, limit the fire damage to property and improve fire-fighter safety.

Due to the special fire precautions within residential care buildings, hospitals and enclosed shopping centres, additional guidance is grouped in the Annexes. The intention is to help designers and verifiers find the information they require quickly when designing or vetting such buildings. However it is important to remember that the guidance in the annexes is in addition and supplementary to the guidance to Standard 2.1 to 2.15. For additional guidance on:

Conversions - in the case of conversions, as specified in regulation 4, the building as converted shall meet the requirement of this standard (regulation 12, schedule 6).

2.14.1 Fire and rescue service facilities

Fire and rescue service facilities may need to be provided in a building to assist with any evacuation of the building occupants, effect rescues of any casualties and to fight fires. The time taken for fire and rescue service intervention is dependent on a number of variables. The time to contact the emergency services, the location of the building in relation to the fire station and the height of the floor of fire origin above or below the fire and rescue service access level.

Fires in tall buildings or in basement storeys may present additional risks to fire and rescue service personnel. Fire and smoke can suddenly change direction and intensity due to a number of factors which might induce reverse air flows. For example, the wind direction and velocity (which increases with height) could have a significant impact when fire-fighters open the door to the room or storey of fire origin. Similarly, limited ventilation available in a basement storey can lead to heat and smoke build up that is released through the opening the fire-fighters are using as an entry point.

It is important that the facilities to assist the fire and rescue services take account of the building design. The Building Disaster Assessment Group carried out extensive research on behalf of the UK Government to assess the interaction between building design and the operational response of fire and rescue services. The subjects covered by the research included:

  • physiological performance criteria for fire-fighting

  • fire-fighting in under-ventilated compartments, and

  • fire-fighting media in high-rise buildings.

The research is available on the UK Government website http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/.

2.14.2 Number and type of facilities

The further fire-fighters need to travel to reach the seat of the fire above or below ground, the greater the risk. Therefore, the number and type of facilities provided should be based on the height of the topmost storey above the fire and rescue service access level, the depth of any basement storeys below the access level and the distance from any fire mains outlets (see clause 2.14.7).

The type of facilities that are necessary may include:

  • fire-fighting stairs

  • fire-fighting lifts

  • fire-fighting lobbies, and

  • heat and smoke control (e.g. natural or mechanical ventilation).

Height of topmost storey - building design should complement fire-fighting and rescue capability. The 7.5m storey height above the ground is historically linked to the height at which fire and rescue service personnel can rescue occupants using the standard 13.5m portable ladder. Whilst this practice is no longer common, for health and safety reasons, fire-fighters continue to carry out external rescues as a last resort and building design should recognise this.

The 18m storey height above the ground is also historically linked with the reach capability of fire and rescue service equipment such as wheeled escape ladders (now obsolete). The general intent is that buildings with a storey at a height of more than 18m above the access level, cannot be easily reached by fire and rescue service equipment and personnel. Therefore, at least 1 fire-fighting shaft (fire-fighting stair, fire-fighting lobby, fire mains and in some cases a fire-fighting lift) is provided within the building to allow equipment and personnel to be deployed as quickly as possible.

In addition, fire-fighters cannot apply water jets from fire hoses onto external walls high above the ground because of the limited reach capability. The guidance throughout this handbook including Standard 2.7, spread on external walls, recognises this limitation.

The fire and rescue service facilities recommended in the table should be applied on every storey, however the lowest basement storey sets the level of facilities recommended throughout the basement storeys only. The depth of the lowest basement storey is measured from the fire and rescue service access level to the upper surface of the lowest basement storey. The height of the topmost storey of a building is measured from the fire and rescue service access level to the upper surface of the topmost storey.

Table 2.16. Fire and Rescue Service facilities

Height and depth of storey above or below fire and rescue service access level [1] Shops, factories, storage buildings and open sided car parks where the area of any storey is more than 900m2 [2] All other buildings [2]
Basements at a depth more than 10m below access level Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), fire-fighting lift (see clause 2.14.4), fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5), ventilation to stair and lobby (see clause 2.14.6), dry fire main (see clause 2.14.7)
Basements at a depth not more than 10m below access level Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5), ventilation to stair and lobby (see clause 2.14.6), dry fire main (see clause 2.14.7) Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), ventilation to stair (see clause 2.14.6)
Topmost storey not more than 7.5m above access level [3] Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), unvented fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5), ventilation to stair (see clause 2.14.6), dry fire main (see clause 2.14.7) Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), ventilation to stair (see clause 2.14.6)
Topmost storey more than 7.5m but not more than 18m above access level Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5), ventilation to stair and lobby (see clause 2.14.6), dry fire main (see clause 2.14.7) Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), unvented fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5), ventilation to stair (see clause 2.14.6), dry fire main (see clause 2.14.7)
Topmost storey more than 18m but not more than 50m above access level Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), fire-fighting lift (see clause 2.14.4), fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5), ventilation to stair and lobby (see clause 2.14.6), dry fire main (see clause 2.14.7)
Topmost storey more than 50m but not more than 60m above access level Fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3), fire-fighting lift (see clause 2.14.4), fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5), ventilation to stair and lobby (see clause 2.14.6), wet fire main (see clause 2.14.7)

Additional information:

  1. The access level is the level at which the fire and rescue service enter the building to commence fire-fighting and rescue operations.

  2. Ventilation to stairs includes both escape stairs and fire-fighting stairs (see clause 2.14.6).

  3. For open side car parks there is no need for fire-fighting lobbies or dry fire mains.

Figure 2.19. Typical upper floor - office building

Typical upper floor - office building

2.14.3 Fire-fighting stairs

At least 1 fire-fighting stair should be provided to assist fire-fighters to access the fire and if necessary escape from the fire in relative safety. The fire-fighting stair should be at least 1.0m wide measured between handrails to provide fire and rescue service personnel sufficient room to carry fire-fighting and rescue equipment.

A fire-fighting stair should be contained within a protected zone. The enclosing structure of the protected zone should have at least a medium fire resistance duration and should have a long fire resistance duration where it serves:

However where the elements of structure in a building have a medium fire resistance duration, the protected zone need only have a medium fire resistance duration.

A self-closing fire door in the enclosing structure of a protected zone should have at least a medium fire resistance duration. In some cases an escape stair can be used as a fire-fighting stair. For example, in single stair buildings.

Figure 2.20. Fire and Rescue Service facilities

Fire and Rescue Service facilities

2.14.4 Fire-fighting lifts

A fire-fighting lift allows fire and rescue service personnel to transport equipment to a floor of their choice as quickly as possible. The lift also allows fire-fighters to access several floors quickly to assess the situation and to rescue any casualties.

The lift installation includes the lift car itself, the lift well and the lift machinery space, together with the lift control system and the lift communication system. The lift control and communication system should be capable of being used under the direct control of the fire and rescue services. The lift installation should conform to BS EN 81: Part 72: 2015 and BS EN 81: Part 20: 2014 or BS EN 81: Part 50: 2014 depending on the type of lift.

A fire-fighting lift should be located within a protected zone and constructed within its own compartment having at least a medium fire resistance duration. The lift landing doors need only achieve a short fire resistance duration.

The lift should only be entered from:

A fire-fighting lift need not serve the top storey of a building where:

  • the top storey is for service plant use only, and

  • access to the plant room is from the fire-fighting stair from the storey below, and

  • the foot of the fire-fighting stair is not more than 4.5m from the fire-fighting lift.

2.14.5 Fire-fighting lobbies

A fire-fighting lobby serves a fire-fighting stair and a fire-fighting lift where appropriate (see table to clause 2.14.2). Where a fire-fighting lobby is required (see table to clause 2.14.2), it should be located within a protected zone and should be provided on every storey. The purpose of a fire-fighting lobby is:

  • to allow fire-fighters to set up a forward control point at least 1 floor below the fire floor where fire-fighters and fire-fighting equipment can safely be assembled before commitment to fire-fighting and rescue operations

  • to protect fire-fighters when making their final approach to the fire floor

  • to protect any evacuees or fire-fighters who might be using the stair from a fire in the lift well or lift machine room

  • to provide fire-fighters with a safe route of egress from the fire, or if the lift should fail or its reliability becomes uncertain

  • to protect fire-fighters who might accidentally arrive at the fire floor

  • to reduce the potential for fire-fighters to become disoriented due to poor visibility, and

  • to protect the lift from the effects of fire and smoke in adjoining accommodation.

Therefore, a fire fighting lobby should be provided on every storey, and include within it, an area of at least 5m2 with all principal dimensions at least 1.5m. This allows fire-fighters sufficient room to lay out hose and connect to the outlet from a fire main.

In order to protect fire-fighters, only 1 door should be provided between the fire-fighting lobby and the remainder of the building in the following high risk cases:

2.14.6 Heat and smoke control

The fire and rescue service should be provided with the facility to release smoke and heat from a fire during their fire-fighting and rescue operations. Ventilation should be provided to every escape stair, fire-fighting stair and fire-fighting lobby unless excluded by the table to clause 2.14.2. The efficiency of the ventilators depends upon the prevailing wind and it is important that fire-fighters can control the opening and closing of the ventilators on arrival at the building.

Ventilators should be fitted with a simple handle or lock that can be operated by fire-fighters. If ventilators are not easily accessible they should be operated by a mechanism positioned within the building at the fire and rescue service access point. In the case of an escape stair and fire-fighting stair, a local control should also be provided at the topmost storey. This will allow fire-fighters flexibility in their operations.

Escape stairs and fire-fighting stairs - ventilation should be provided to every escape stair and every fire-fighting stair by:

  • a ventilator of at least 1m2 at the top of the stair, or

  • an ventilator of at least 0.5m2 at each storey on an external wall, or

  • ‘Smoke shafts protecting fire-fighting shafts; their performance and design’ (BRE, 2002).

Fire-fighting lobbies - ventilation should also be provided in every fire-fighting lobby unless excluded by the table to clause 2.14.2, by:

  • a ventilator of at least 1m2 at each storey on an external wall, or

  • ‘Smoke shafts protecting fire-fighting shafts: their performance and design’ (BRE, 2002).

A natural or mechanical smoke ventilation system used to satisfy Standard 2.9 may also be used to satisfy Standard 2.14 with the agreement of the fire and rescue service.

2.14.7 Fire mains

Where there is an outbreak of fire high above the fire and rescue service access level, the time taken to set up a forward control point, assess the situation and carry hoses up several flights of stairs can be considerable. Therefore, in a building where the topmost storey is more than 7.5m, a fire main should be installed in the fire-fighting lobby to help reduce fire attack time. Fire mains are also necessary to help fire-fighters to attack large fires in basement storeys (see table to clause 2.14.2).

In some cases, (see table to clause 2.14.2) fire mains may be located in an unventilated fire-fighting lobby (e.g. protected lobby).

A dry fire main is a pipe installed in a building for fire-fighting purposes, which is normally dry but is capable of being charged with water by pumping from a fire and rescue service appliance. A dry fire main is commonly referred to as a ‘dry riser’.

Dry fire mains should be designed and constructed in accordance with BS 9990: 2015.

The inlets to the risers should be located externally to the building and not more than 18m from a parking space suitable for a pumping appliance. There should be a clear hose route between the appliance and the inlet.

Wet fire mains - the pressure and flow rates delivered from fire mains reduce with height above the ground and may not provide an effective water jet from fire-fighting hoses. Therefore, where the height of the topmost storey is more than 50m above the fire and rescue service access level, wet rising mains should be installed. A wet fire main is a pipe which is constantly charged with water supplied from a suction tank and pump. The suction tank should have an inlet for the emergency replenishment of water and is clearly visible to the fire and rescue services. A wet fire main is commonly referred to as a ‘wet riser’.

Fire mains outlets should be provided on every storey of a building and the basement storey to permit fire-fighting operations to be conducted at any floor level when it is safe for fire and rescue service personnel to do so.

If an automatic fire suppression system is installed in the building, no point on the storey should be more than 60m from the fire main outlet, measured along an unobstructed route for laying a fire hose. If the building is not fitted with an automatic fire suppression system, no point on the storey should be more than 45m from the outlet.

Figure 2.21. Two Escape Routes

Two Escape Routes

2.14.8 Fire shutters

All fire shutters in compartment walls (see clause 2.1.14) should be capable of being opened and closed manually by fire and rescue service personnel.

2.14.9 Venting of heat and smoke from basements

The build up of smoke and heat in basement storeys can seriously inhibit the ability of the fire and rescue service to carry out fire-fighting and rescue operations. The products of combustion from basement fires tend to escape via stairways, making access difficult for fire-fighters. Ventilation can reduce temperatures and improve visibility. Therefore smoke outlets, communicating directly with the external air, should be provided from every basement storey, and where the basement storey is divided into compartments, from every compartment. However smoke outlets need not be provided:

  • in open sided car parks, or

  • where the floor area of the basement storey is not more than 200m2, or

  • where the basement storey is at a depth of not more than 4.5m, or

  • where there is a window or windows opening direct to the external air having a total area not less than 1% of the floor area, or

  • where the basement storey or part of the basement storey is used as a strong room, or

  • where the basement storey has an automatic fire suppression system and is ventilated by a mechanical smoke and heat extraction system incorporating a powered smoke and heat exhaust ventilator which has a capacity of at least 10 air changes per hour and conforms to BS 7346: Part 2: 1990 with a class D level of performance or more detailed guidance can be found in the BS EN 12101 series of standards.

Smoke outlets should:

  • have an area of at least 2.5% of the floor area of the compartment they serve, and

  • sited at high level, either in the ceiling or in the wall of the space they serve, and

  • evenly distributed around the perimeter of the building, and

  • discharge directly to the open air at a point at least 2m, measured horizontally, from any part of an escape route or exit, and

  • where they serve a place of special fire risk, they are separate from smoke outlets from other areas, and

  • where the outlet is a smoke shaft, the enclosing structure should have at least a medium fire resistance duration, other than the smoke inlets and outlets to the shaft.

If an outlet terminates in a readily accessible position, it may be covered by a panel or pavement light that is capable of being opened by fire and rescue service personnel. Covered outlets should have a sign stating ‘Smoke outlet from basement’ fixed adjacent to each external outlet point.

If a smoke outlet is inaccessible to the fire and rescue services, it should be unobstructed but may be covered by a non-combustible grille or louvre.