Review of fire regulations in the UK governing balconies in multi-storey flats.

The client wished to know what UK fire regulations and codes applied in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in order that likely building control queries might be dealt with. The prefabricated balconies were made of steel, aluminium, concrete and glass and were used in other countries to upgrade the aesthetic and add to usable floor space in local authority owned blocks of flats.

I made a review of the ADB re guidance and discovered that balconies were not explicitly covered by the ADB. Various fire scenarios were then examined in an attempt to guide on the amount of fire resistance, if any, an external balcony should possess for life safety of occupants and fire fighters. This involved making calculations for fire scenarios involving flames from a fully developed fire in the living room spreading into the balcony area and also for flames impinging on the underside of the balcony from a fire immediately below the balcony. Numerical models in the structural Eurocodes and the BS PD 7974 documents were used. The author gave a PowerPoint presentation balcony fire scenarios on the topic at the Institution of Structural Engineers in London in 2013 which provided a good opportunity for fire scientists and engineers to voice their views. The study, which included a short paper identifying relevant parts of ADB, showed that the amount of fire resistance needed to ensure the balcony should not collapse was not clearly defined, indeed there was a view that it did not matter if a balcony collapsed provided all the occupants had safely escaped. It remains unclear what interpretation the building approval authorities would make of the regulations and codes in terms of fire resistance needed.

Client: Scandinavian balcony manufacturer.