Department takes lead on fire safety improvements for high rise residential buildings

Date published: 17 January 2024

The Department for Communities has launched significant new work to address fire safety in high rise and other residential buildings across Northern Ireland.

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The Department has taken on responsibility for the implementation of the Department of Finance Expert Panel report ‘Improving Safety in High Rise Residential Buildings in Northern Ireland’ which was developed in response to the Grenfell tragedy.

A key focus for the new Residential Building Safety Team will be the development of a new legislative framework, supported by an extensive outreach programme due to begin later this month.

Alongside initial research and scoping exercises the Department will be seeking the views of residents of high rise residential buildings to inform consideration of building safety issues here and, in particular, fire safety matters stemming from building design, construction and ongoing operation and maintenance.

Head of the Residential Building Safety Team, Derek Kennedy said:

“People are at the heart of what we do in the Department so we’re particularly keen to involve residents at the earliest opportunity. Their input is essential as this policy evolves, and a key part of the development of a legislative framework.

“I would encourage residents of high rise buildings to register and come along to one of the information sessions. Stakeholder engagement and consultation will be central as we move forward, both in terms of gaining insight and wider public understanding of this work.”

Information sessions for residents of high rise buildings have been scheduled as follows:

  • Tuesday, January 30, 2024 – Public Record Office of Northern Ireland – Belfast (At 11am and 2pm);
  • Wednesday, January 31, 2024 – Guildhall - Derry/Londonderry (At 11am and 2pm); and
  • Thursday, February 1, 2024 – Online session (at 7pm).

To register for any of these sessions, please use the following link

Further engagement will take place with building owners, the construction industry and manufacturers, and other interested parties from the public and private sectors.

More information is available on the Department for Communities website

Notes to editors: 

1. As a priority, the team in DfC will initially focus on mitigating fire safety risks in High Rise Residential Buildings (HRRBs) in Northern Ireland, which could impact on life safety.

2. DfC is currently considering the following:

The 15 recommendations within the Expert Panel’s report: and the potential direction of an implementation Roadmap;

The extensive stakeholder engagement and consultation needed; and

The research and detailed scoping exercises required.

3. The findings and output will inform the policy direction and the required work around establishing a legislative framework.

4. In general terms, the high-rise residential buildings that will be included in the Residential Building Safety Team’s initial work will normally have 4 or more floors and be over 11 metres high.

5. More specifically, the Team’s initial work will include the following residential property types:

  • Residential buildings with 4 or more floors and over 11 metres high to the uppermost floor* (measured from the lowest floor, which can be underground).
  • Buildings which are not fully residential but contain 2 or more residential units and have 4 or more floors and are over 11 metres high to the uppermost floor* (measured from the lowest floor, which can be underground).
  • Residential Health and Social Care homes, regardless of height.

*Uppermost floors consisting of plant only, i.e. mechanical and electrical equipment, are not included in the height measurement.

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