Current Structure of the Building Standards
16. There was agreement that the current structure of the Building Standards with mandatory functional standards supported by performance based or prescriptive guidance in the Technical Handbooks (Domestic and Non-domestic) was fundamentally sound. However it was clear that there is a need to reinforce the principle that while compliance with the functional standards is the mandatory requirement, this is possible without following the guidance in the Technical Handbooks. The guidance in the Technical Handbooks, although useable as default requirements and offering a benchmark against which alternatives can be verified, does not always have to serve as such a benchmark.
17. There was felt to be merit in the introduction of alternative guidance, which makes it clearer that there is more than one way of achieving compliance with the functional standards. The responsibility for choosing the design approach lies with the designer.
18. There was discussion on how such alternative guidance could be structured and the international group proposed a model, which was endorsed by many of the main Review Panel, as follows:
- a very prescriptive set of guidance, available for all to use
- a middle set of guidance, which combines engineering principles and prescribed or performance requirements, within agreed bounds, for those competent to use it properly, and
- recognition that it was possible to design a fully performance based fire safety engineering approach, from first principles, although guidance for this would not be included in the Technical Handbooks, as it should only be undertaken by those competent in this field.
19. It was felt that there might be merit in some restructuring of the Technical Handbooks to stress the equal status of such alternative guidance.
20. The scope of the Technical Handbooks was also discussed. It was felt that this should be wide enough to avoid designers of relatively simple buildings having to employ fire safety specialists in order to ensure their designs fulfilled the functional standards. However it was also felt that there are existing sections currently within the Non-domestic Technical Handbook, which should not be used without sufficient specialist understanding and experience, in particular the annexes which cover hospitals and shopping centres. This material would be better published separately, not least so that it could be reviewed and updated as required. The annex covering residential care buildings should also be reviewed and might be best published separately.
21. It was suggested that there should be an additional Technical Handbook for simple domestic detached and semi-detached dwellings (up to 3 storeys). This would have to cover not only fire, but all sections of the functional standards to be really useful.
Recommendations 1 and 2
1. The current structure of mandatory functional standards supported with performance based or prescriptive guidance in the Technical Handbooks works and should be retained.
2. The Technical Handbooks should make clearer the status, functions and limitations of the guidance.