Review Panel on Building Standards (Fire Safety) in Scotland: report

Report by Dr Paul Stollard on recommendations of the Review Panel on Building Standards (Fire Safety) in Scotland.


1. The tragic fire in the Grenfell Tower on the 14 June 2017 which led to the deaths of 72 people was the worst fire in the United Kingdom since, at least, the Second World War. In response the Scottish Government immediately set up Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety to take forward a programme of work to look at not only high rise buildings in Scotland, but also the standards and regulations covering their construction, management and occupation. This programme of work also took account of other recent studies of the building standards system, including that undertaken into Edinburgh schools.

2. This report presents the conclusions and recommendations of one such review, the Review Panel on Building Standards (Fire Safety) in Scotland chaired by Dr Paul Stollard. A parallel Review Panel on Compliance and Enforcement, chaired by Professor John Cole, was established at the same time and the work of the two panels was co-ordinated by the chairs.

3. A key part of this work was the examination of the functioning of the building standards system in Scotland as established by the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 and the subsequent Building (Scotland) and Building (Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004. These set mandatory functional standards which must be achieved in all new buildings and building work, including renovations and refurbishments. It is the responsibility of designers to meet these functional standards and the local authorities were appointed to verify that they are achieved. This is done by only granting a Warrant for work to commence once the plans have been examined and by accepting the Completion Certificate before the building can be occupied. The Completion Certificate confirms that the building has been built in accordance with the warrant drawings and the regulations, and verifiers must refuse to accept a Completion Certificate if they do not believe this to be the case.

4. Fire safety is covered in 15 functional standards within Section 2 of the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. These are supported by two Technical Handbooks (Domestic and Non-domestic), which provide guidance on methods of satisfying the functional standards. However the Technical Handbooks are not mandatory and designers can offer alternative methods of compliance with the functional standards for verification by local authorities.

5. It is worth stressing that the building standards system, the functional standards, and the process for verification in Scotland is completely separate and different from the building regulations system in England. This relies on Approved Documents, Approved Inspectors and local authority building control departments, it was this system which applied to the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

6. Since 2005, Section 2: Fire of the Technical Handbooks have included guidance on inhibiting the external spread of fire, fire spread within cavities and fire spread in external wall insulation. In particular in high rise domestic buildings (with a storey at a height of over 18m above the ground) this has been achieved by tightly restricting the materials which can be used. For this reason there has been very limited use in Scotland of combustible rain screen cladding and insulation materials similar to those used in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.


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