Second Staircases in High Buildings.

23 May 2023

Post Grenfell

After the Grenfell disaster there has been consideration of how the regulations on high multi-storey buildings might be modified to prevent a future disaster.

The government has identified that providing a second staircase can provide benefits for tall residential buildings, such as added resilience for extreme events and reduced conflicts between emergency responders entering a building and those trying to escape, reducing the risk of the smoke ingress into an “escape” stairwell.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has proposed introducing a mandate for a second staircase on new blocks above 30 metres (around 10 storeys) in order to make buildings safer (note, the Fire Authorities have argued that the limit should be 18 Metres).

A consultation on this change to Building Regulations closed on March 17. DLUH&C have apparently indicated a very short transition period before implementing the change, if it is proceeded with.


The Greater London Authority has already, under its local powers, introduced this change earlier this year. Some estimates are that nearly 250 development schemes are affected by this change in London.

Previously agreed designs and funding models are having to be reconsidered, partly as non-compliant schemes may be less easy to sell once constructed. It is not solely an issue for plans awaiting permission.

Impact on Guildford.

The proposed requirments for a second staircase will impact some developments.  St Mary's/Debenhams has accommodation that is just under the limit at 28M, but could have issues if the limit is, after consultation, reduced from 30M.

North Street may have to be revised particularly the northern block which, depending on how storeys are measured on a sloping site, could see a requirment for a second staircase or a reduction in height of circa two storeys. One of the other buildings may have issues with the height limits. This will further impact the viability of the North Street Scheme.

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