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External balcony walkways

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Hi folks

A three storey block of flats that I visited last week had external balcony access to the flat front doors accessed by a communal stairway to one side of the building only. None of the flat front doors or windows were fire resistant. Due to only having one route of escape and residents that have to pass various other flats to get there, should the windows and doors be fire resistant?

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Whilst this should be subject to Fire Risk Assessment (hate saying that as it always sounds like a way of swerving the answer) but further guidance can be found at:

  • British Standard 9991 – Section 7.3
  • Approved Document B – Section 3.29
  • Local Government Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats – Section 59.5

The face of the building (excluding window openings) should provide at least 30mins fire resistance and window openings should not extend below a height of 1100 mm above the deck level.  Surface materials of the facing wall, balcony soffit and balustrade should be of Class 0 rating.  

The idea is that if fire escapes the flat through the window, occupants needing to pass by the flat can crawl beneath and hopefully escape.

If entrance to each flat is afforded via external balcony / deck approach  you need to check the width (less than 2m in width is fine).  There is a risk of smoke logging if the balcony / deck above is more than 2m.

The requirement is for the doors to be FD30 level (no mention of smoke) but as Tom says above, the Risk Assessment may indicate that smoke protection would be beneficial. 

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