Fact sheet: Design and materials of external walls (regulation 5)

Updated 24 July 2023

Regulations made under Article 24 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005:

Purpose of this fact sheet

This fact sheet is not guidance and should not be read as such. It is intended to provide information about the regulations to residents and other interested parties.

What we have done

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 made it a legal requirement from 23 January 2023 for responsible persons of existing high-rise[footnote 1] residential buildings in England to provide their local fire and rescue service with information about the design and materials of the building’s external walls and to inform their local fire and rescue service of any material changes made to them. Supporting guidance specifies the type of information required by fire and rescue service to support their operational response and how this should be shared.

Responsible persons are also required to provide additional information to their local fire and rescue service in relation to the level of risk of spread of fire that the external wall structure (its design and materials) pose and the steps they (responsible person) have taken to mitigate these risks.

The above information should be shared in a standard format and a template for responsible persons will be provided in supporting guidance.

Why we did it

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry noted in the Phase 1 report (Recommendation 33.10(d)) that “A sound understanding of the materials used in the construction of any high-rise building is essential if the fire and rescue service is to be properly prepared to carry out its function in relation to that building […]”.[footnote 2]

The details about the design and materials of the external walls will help forewarn the fire and rescue service and enable them to plan for incidents accordingly.

The regulations go further than the inquiry by asking the responsible person to provide information on the level of risk associated with their external wall structure. This will be useful for both operational firefighting and fire safety inspection purposes.

Meeting the requirement to provide information about a building’s external walls

Responsible persons who do not currently have all the information specified in guidance regarding their external walls should provide the information they do hold whilst they update their fire risk assessment to include an appropriate assessment of the external walls. Once their fire risk assessment is updated, they should provide this updated information to their local fire and rescue service as soon as possible.

Determining the level of risk that the external wall structure poses

The Fire Safety Act 2021 has clarified that where a building contains 2 or more sets of domestic premises the fire risk assessment should include an assessment of that building’s external wall system.

For most high-rise residential buildings, we expect that responsible persons will already know what their external wall systems are comprised of, and what steps (informed by their building’s fire risk assessment) they have already taken to mitigate this risk. For example, where the material of a building’s external walls is masonry and there is no risk of external fire spread, a simple statement to that effect is all that is required.

Where this is not the case, or where a more in-depth external wall system assessment is required, the responsible person should arrange to have an assessment which is relevant to their building’s circumstances undertaken. Once completed they should and share the relevant details of that assessment with the fire and rescue service, alongside the mitigating steps they have taken as a result of this assessment.

Guidance to support these regulations includes a suggested template to assist the responsible person in sharing the right information with the fire and rescue service.

If the information is in the fire risk assessment, can the responsible person send that?

The regulations require a responsible person to produce “a record” of the design of the external wall of the building which includes details of the materials from which they are constructed. This record should also include the detail of the level of risk identified and recorded in the fire risk assessment and the mitigating steps that the responsible person has implemented to mitigate this risk.

The information that is to be shared with the fire and rescue service is intended to be useful to them in planning their operational response should a fire breakout in their building.

A template is included in guidance to assist responsible persons in providing this information to fire and rescue services in a way that is practical to be used by the fire service and is a proportionate burden on the responsible person.

What are mitigating steps?

These will be informed by the fire risk assessment for the building but could include whether a waking watch has been established, or a sprinkler system installed.

  1. As defined in The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 as a building at least 18 metres in height or at least 7 storeys. 

  2. Pg. 773 HC 49-IV – The Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 Report - Volume 4 of 4 (PDF, 6.40MB)