New London blocks feature only one escape stairway

New London blocks feature only one escape stairway

A RANGE of large residential high rise blocks being built feature ‘limited emergency access’.

The Times reported on the Spire London block, a 67 storey residential building that will be Britain’s second tallest building when completed in 2020, but which ‘will have only one escape stairway for residents on the top floor’. The high rise is one of four planned for the capital that will offer ‘limited emergency access’, with Spire London having 861 apartments and access to two escape stairways for people living below the 54th floor.

When constructed, the £800m development will be 235m above east London, and The Times stated that ‘building guidelines say that office blocks over a certain height must have two escape stairways but residential blocks are exempt from them’. After the Grenfell Tower fire, this came under scrutiny from safety experts, who stated that as that tower only had one stairway, ‘new high blocks should have more’.

The Sunday Times meanwhile undertook an investigation into another residential high rise, the Landmark Pinnacle, which will be located in Canary Wharf and reach 230m in height. Plans for the building however show a ‘single stairwell between the ground and 75th floors’, while ‘at least’ eight other towers in London have been approved ‘with a single escape stairway from the top floors or whole building’.

Tower Hamlets Council approved both towers, and stated that it ‘followed national regulations’ on fire safety, noting that ‘we would welcome tighter controls to better ensure the safety of people in our borough’. The other eight include Newfoundland Quay, a 220m skyscraper, and One Park Drive, a 212m, 58 storey tower, with developer Canary Wharf Group stating that ‘our buildings have robust fire protection solutions and a comprehensive fire strategy tailored to the design of each building. They have full regulatory approval’.

That building’s developer Chalgrove Properties commented: ‘Landmark Pinnacle has significant additional safety features, including sprinklers in all corridors and within every apartment, smoke extractors in every corridor and two firefighting lifts. Apartment walls are designed to resist a fire for 60 minutes and both staircase and lift corridors are protected by a two-hour fire compartment.’

The Chinese company behind the Spire London building, Greenland Group, ‘could not be reached for comment’, and The Times noted that Chalgrove Properties’ mention of ‘additional safety features’ are those that are ‘designed to contain and extinguish fires, making a second staircase unnecessary’. Guidelines state no apartment ‘must be more than 7.5m from an escape stairway’, but ‘the presence of advanced safety features means that this distance can be extended to as much as 21m’.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) recommended in turn that there should be ‘more than one means of vertical escape for new multiple-occupancy residential buildings of more than three storeys in height’, which it shared in its submission to the review of building regulations and fire safety undertaken by Dame Judith Hackitt.