Building standards technical handbook 2022: non-domestic

Guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. This handbook applies to a building warrant submitted on or after 1 June 2022 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

Annex 2.A Additional guidance for residential care buildings

2.A.0 Introduction

The recommendations contained in this annex are in addition to the guidance to Standards 2.1 to 2.15 and are unique to residential care buildings.

A residential care building is a building used, or to be used, for the provision of:

  1. a care home service, or

  2. a school accommodation service

and for these purposes, the expressions mentioned in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) above, have the same meaning as in the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001.

All residential buildings pose special problems because the occupants may be asleep when a fire starts. In residential care buildings the problems are greater as the mobility, awareness and understanding of the occupants may also be impaired.

The intention of sub-compartmentation and the enclosure of fire hazard rooms is to provide physical barriers to a fire. Automatic fire suppression is intended to limit the development of a fire to the room or space of fire origin and automatic detection provides the early warning of the outbreak of fire. The combination of active and passive fire protection should afford staff and occupants the additional time necessary to evacuate the building safely.

Additional recommendations are provided for compartmentation, cavities, escape, escape lighting, communication and automatic fire suppression.

Residential care buildings are quite diverse and can be used by a variety of occupants, each requiring different types of care to suit their specific needs. Whilst the guidance in this annex is suitable for most residential care buildings, it is accepted that a degree of flexibility should be applied when designing for specialised conditions such as children’s homes or care homes where the occupants suffer from dementia. Any departure from this guidance should be carried out on a risk-based approach and early consultation with the verifier and fire and rescue service is essential.

Fire safety in residential care buildings is also dependent upon the way a building is furnished, staffed and managed. Designers of residential care buildings may need to make reference to the relevant documents which comprise ‘NHS Scotland Firecode’.

Maximum compartment size - every compartment in a residential care building should be limited to a maximum area of 1500m2. In addition, every upper storey and every basement storey should form a separate compartment.


Sub-compartmentation and the enclosure of fire hazard rooms is to provide physical barriers to a fire, thus affording the staff and occupants additional time to evacuate the building safely. Every compartment in a residential care building should be divided into at least two sub-compartments by a sub-compartment wall with a short fire resistance duration, so that each sub-compartment is not greater than 750m2.

Fire hazard rooms

In order to contain a fire in its early stages, the following rooms are considered to be hazardous and should be enclosed by walls with a short fire resistance duration:

  • chemical stores

  • cleaners' rooms

  • clothes storage

  • day rooms with a floor area greater than 20m2

  • smoking rooms

  • disposal rooms

  • lift motor rooms

  • linen stores

  • bedrooms

  • kitchens

  • laundry rooms

  • staff changing and locker rooms, and

  • store rooms.

Corridor escape routes

Where any corridor escape route serves sleeping accommodation it should be constructed of walls providing short fire resistance duration and any door in the wall should be a suitable self-closing fire door with a short fire resistance duration. However the fire door to the cleaners cupboard need not be self closing provided it is lockable.


A sub-compartment wall can be constructed with combustible products (i.e. products that achieve a European Classification B, C, D or E) provided the wall has short fire resistance duration.

Junctions with external walls

Where a lower roof abuts an external wall, the roof should provide a medium fire resistance duration for a distance of at least 3m from the wall.

2.A.2 Cavities

Where cavity barriers are installed between a roof and a ceiling above an undivided space, cavity barriers should be installed not more than 20m apart (see clause 2.4.3).

2.A.3 Escape

Number of exits - at least 2 exits should be provided from any storey in a residential care building. However additional exits may be needed in accordance with clause 2.9.7. Each sub-compartment should be provided with at least 2 exits by way of protected zones and/or unprotected zones to adjoining, but separate, compartments or sub-compartments.


Residential care buildings can present difficulties when assessing the risks associated with security against the need to evacuate the building safely in the case of fire. Some residential care buildings are a home to people who might put themselves at risk. An example would be a 2 storey residential home for the elderly, mentally infirm, where there is concern about residents falling down stairs. In such cases, variation in the guidance to Standard 2.9 would be entirely appropriate where the risk of death or injury from falls is assessed against the hazards associated with fire. The security measures proposed should therefore take account of these hazards and extra emphasis may need to be placed on management control and/or any automated life safety systems to ensure the safe evacuation of the building.

Travel Distance

Travel distance may be measured to a protected door in a sub-compartment. The maximum travel distance from any point within a compartment should be not more than 64m to:

Horizontal Evacuation - in residential care buildings, occupants may need to be evacuated horizontally through a protected door into an adjoining compartment. In such cases, each compartment should be capable of holding the occupancy capacity of that compartment and the occupancy capacity of the largest adjoining compartment.

Where the travel distance is measured to a protected door in a compartment wall or sub-compartment wall in a residential care building, the escape route should not pass through any of the fire hazard rooms listed in clause 2.A.1.

Occupancy of bedrooms

No room intended for sleeping should be used by more than 4 people.

2.A.4 Escape lighting

Emergency lighting should be installed in:

2.A.5 Communication

An automatic fire detection and alarm system should be installed in every residential care building to ensure that staff and residents are given the earliest possible warning of the outbreak of fire anywhere in the building. This early warning should allow the staff and residents sufficient time to evacuate the building, if necessary.

The automatic fire detection and alarm system should be designed and installed in accordance with the guidance in BS 5839: Part 1: 2002 Category L1 and in accordance with the recommendations below:

  1. detection need not be provided in the following locations:

    • sanitary accommodation

    • a lockable cupboard with a plan area not more than 1m2

    • in a void and roof space which contain only mineral insulated wiring, or wiring laid on metal trays, or in metal conduits, or metal/plastic pipes used for water supply, drainage or ventilating ducting

  2. manual fire alarm call points manufactured to BS EN 54: Part 11: 2001 (Type A) should be located and installed in accordance with BS 5839: Part 1: 2002

  3. the fire alarm should be activated on the operation of manual call points, automatic detection or the operation of the automatic life safety fire suppression system

  4. the building should be divided into detection zones not extending beyond a single compartment

  5. the audibility level of the fire alarm sounders should be as specified in BS 5839: Part 1: 2002 except in a place of lawful detention including prisons, the alarm need not be sounded throughout the entire building

  6. a fire alarm control panel should be provided at the main entrance, or a suitably located entrance to the building agreed with the fire authority

  7. on the actuation of the fire alarm, a signal should be transmitted automatically to the fire service, either directly or by way of a remote centre, designed and operated in accordance with BS 5979: 2000.

In the case of a residential care building designed to accommodate not more than 10 residents, the fire detection and alarm system may be installed in accordance with clause 2.11.7 for other residential buildings.

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