Take Extra Care: Fire Safety in Specialised Housing

Sue Rugg
Fire safety within the extra care housing or assisted living sector has become a major factor for consultants over recent years.

Across the UK, clients, designers and contractors are facing divergent interpretations of the current fire regulations by fire officers in respect of their application to higher risk accommodation for older persons such as extra care housing or assisted living.

Faithful+Gould are a key member of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) working party and has recently presented a seminar explaining what extra care housing is and how newly developed buildings need to be adaptable based upon changing fire risks associated with the occupants in later years.

This information has then been used to publish a briefing paper for the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (LIN) and presented at their annual Extra Care Conference.

Faithful+Gould continually work with the Housing LIN and have been excited to share our expertise within extra care housing to assist in influencing the new code of practice for 'fire safety in the design, management and use of residential buildings'.

Abstracts From The Briefing Paper

Throughout the UK, consultants have historically faced divergent and regional interpretations of fire regulations which have been set out by fire officers and building controls in respect to the application to high risk accommodation for older people. There is currently a misunderstanding of what extra care is and how the sector needs to evolve to accommodate increasing levels of physical or sensory disability or cognitive impairment such as dementia.

Recently there has been a revised code of practice: BS9991:2015 - Fire safety in the design, management and use of residential buildings, which introduces the housing typology 'specialised housing'. This includes: extra care housing; sheltered housing; assisted living; housing with care; independent living with care and any building where the dwellings are grouped into multi-residential accommodation.

The code also introduces new guidance on the management of additional needs and disabilities being based upon 'a personal centred approach'.

BS9991:2015 introduces the change from 'sheltered or extra care housing' to 'specialist housing' with an expansion of related recommendations. The code also introduces new guidance on the management of additional needs and disabilities being based upon 'a personal centred approach'. The aim of the revised BS9991:2015 is to, "reduce the incidence of death or injury from fire to vulnerable persons living in domestic dwellings and higher risk residential accommodation."

The revised code of practice also assists consultants and developers by introducing the principle of 'housing typology' related to the various models of specialist housing ranging from sheltered / retirement housing through to retirement villages. It is recognised throughout the industry that specialist housing covers a wide range of accommodation where residents across the age spectrum have a varying level of immobility or have a physical or cognitive impairments meaning that a tailored approach to fire safety design and management is needed.

'Future proofing' is also now recognised within the revised code, with fire precautionary measures being taken into consideration at the design stage, allowing for building adaptation due to the changing needs of residents. There is also recognition given to tall and very tall buildings, where additional measures related to structural and fire integrity and enhanced firefighting requirements need addressing.

There is a strong emphasis on the management of additional needs and disabilities in specialised housing...

The importance of the ongoing review of the BS9991:2015 and the management of fire safety is recognised within the sector, meaning that there is a need for adjustment when regularly reviewing the code of practice. Fire risk assessments and evacuation procedural amendments related to the likely reaction of the residents with a known disability or cognitive impairments is highlighted.

There is a strong emphasis on the management of additional needs and disabilities in specialised housing where an ageing population is placing an increasing need for building staff to effectively recognise the changes that will be required during the lifetime of the building.

The benefits across the UK as a result of the implementation of BS9991:2015 is that there will now be a more consistent approach to the design, specification, construction and management of higher risk specialised housing through tailored fire risk assessments and prevention measures in the future.

Written by