Headlining today for BBC Scotland, a single well-intentioned, but partisan, that is biased, report from Greenpeace. Would such a report have received such a warm welcome when their pal Jack McConnell’s Blairite administration was in post? The report does not, of course, contextualise building standards in Scotland with any kind of comparative evidence.
However, for construction firms in Scotland, the projects which this new standardisation of safety certifications will apply to is far more extensive.
In England, the new regulations apply to new residential buildings with a storey at 18m above ground level that contains one or more dwellings, or an institution such as student accommodation, but excluding hostels and hotels. By comparison, the new standards in Scotland will apply to buildings with a storey of 11m above ground level. Entertainment and assembly buildings in Scotland will also be included, alongside hospitals and residential care homes of any height. So, if a developer is planning a project that spans multiple locations across the UK, for a series of uniformly designed residential buildings, for example, the rules would differ and potentially require the use of different materials at different sites.
The Scottish changes then go further than the incoming English regulations, outlining a more comprehensive series of measures designed to improve building safety broadly. In the same vein as the controls on combustible materials, the Scottish regulations will make sprinkler installation mandatory in flatted accommodation, larger multi-occupancy dwellings, and places that deliver care. They will also introduce measures to improve evacuation procedures, including the requirement for sound alerts and two escape stairways in all new high-rise residential buildings, and create specific fire safety guidance for the people that live in them.
In addition to more practical building changes to increase safety, the Scottish regulations will make the wider compliance environment for the industry more stringent. They will require developers and building owners to prepare and maintain a compliance plan to deliver transparency over the building’s inspection regime to residents and regulators. To support this, the Scottish government will also create a database to capture and maintain safety-critical information for existing high-rise buildings and draft new guidance for fire risk assessments.