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Flues in High Rise Buildings Regulation Update

Blog30 August 2019

An update to the Building Regulations (Amendment) 2018 for England made earlier this year has caused some concern, particularly for landlords managing high rise flats and apartments.  Updates aimed at improving fire safety, an area we all agree is vital, have directed that materials used in external walls of high-rise residential buildings, i.e. those above 18m tall, need to achieve class A2-s1,d0 or Class A1 fire resistance.

This is relevant to the installation of all new gas boilers, including retrofit installations, in all residential buildings, existing and new, as the ban includes those flues that contain combustible materials.

Currently, to our knowledge, no flue system on the market fulfils this requirement. The flues fitted with Ideal domestic boilers comprises a steel painted outer air duct and internal polypropylene plastic inner flue duct. As the inner flue material is classed as a combustible material according to the standard this type of flue can no longer be fitted to achieve compliance with Building Regulations.

With many landlords looking at limited options for boiler replacements in high rise and the potential for tenants to be left without heating and hot water or a switch to electric heating looking a real possibility there has been a great deal of concern from all sides.

The Government department responsible for the regulation, MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), have started a review into the flue situation, but have advised this could take 6-9 months and the outcome is unknown, several other components such as uPVC doors and windows are exempt from the ruling.

An update received from the MHCLG via the HHIC (Heating and Hot Water Industry Council) in the last few weeks offers some hope to landlords managing the affected properties with an interim measure.

 “In the interim, local authorities have discretion under section 8 of the Building Act to relax requirements of the regulations on a case by case basis where it is considered that the requirements would be unreasonable in a particular circumstance.

 So replacement gas boilers with plastic flue components can be considered in particular cases where the local authority is satisfied that the fire risk to the building is very low and alternative heating solutions would result in unreasonable hardship for consumers. Local Authorities are reminded that any building work should not compromise wider building safety….”

Whilst this interim solution provides a potential way forwards for landlords it is not a long-term solution. Ideal continues to both work with the HHIC to ensure the MHCLG have all of the relevant information needed to undertake their review and at the same time we are working with suppliers to look at product development that may be needed in this area.

We welcome feedback from any customers on this issue and encourage feedback to the MHCLG and Building Control on this issue and how it affects landlords and tenants.