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Is Your Building at Risk? Understanding Higher-Risk Building Criteria

Jun 27, 2023 | Case studies, Industry, Users


In this article, we will demystify the concept of higher-risk buildings in occupation and provide clear guidance to help you determine whether your building falls into this category.

The government released some new guidance on this very subject this week, aimed at helping explain their expectations. See the guide here: .

It’s crucial to understand the criteria that define higher-risk buildings, including their use, building definition, and how height and storeys are measured. By familiarising yourself with these key factors, you can ensure compliance with regulations and prioritise the safety of occupants.

So we thought it might be helpful if we break down the new guidance. Let’s dive in!

1. Use Criteria

What is Use Criteria?

Use criteria refer to the purpose and categorisation of buildings, determining whether they are considered higher-risk. It’s essential to understand which building types are included or excluded from the higher-risk regime.

Why is Use Criteria Important?

Understanding and applying the use criteria is essential for building owners and managers to ensure compliance and meet their responsibilities. By knowing the specific use criteria, you can determine if your building meets the necessary conditions for higher-risk classification. This knowledge is crucial as it helps you identify if your building qualifies as a higher-risk building, which entails additional regulatory requirements and obligations.

How to Determine Use Criteria for Your Building?

Determining whether your building is classified as a higher-risk building involves considering its purpose, usage, and specific criteria. One of the key factors to assess is whether your occupied building has at least two residential units and meets the height or storeys threshold. In such cases, it is generally considered a higher-risk building.

However, it’s important to note that there are specific exclusions outlined in the regulations. Buildings that are exclusively used as:

  • hospitals
  • care homes
  • secure residential institutions
  • hotels
  • military barracks

These buildings are not categorised as higher-risk buildings, regardless of the number of residential units they contain. These exclusions recognise the unique nature and regulations governing these types of buildings.

It’s crucial that building owners and operators understand these Use Criteria and exclusions, so that they can assess whether their buildings falls within the higher-risk classification and determine the corresponding obligations and requirements. It is crucial to review the specific definitions and guidelines provided in the regulations to ensure accurate determination and compliance.

2. Building Definition

What is Building Definition?

The building definition, as outlined in regulation 4 of the Higher-Risk Buildings (Descriptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations 2023, provides a clear understanding of what constitutes a building within the context of the higher-risk regime. It defines different scenarios involving structures and their attachments or independent sections, allowing for accurate classification and assessment.

Why is the Building Definition Important?

The building definition holds significant importance in the higher-risk building classification process. It serves as the foundation for determining whether a structure falls under the higher-risk category. By establishing clear boundaries and criteria, it ensures consistency in identifying buildings that require enhanced safety measures and regulatory compliance. Adhering to the building definition is crucial for building owners and managers to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities effectively.

How to Apply the Building Definition to Your Structure?

To apply the building definition to your structure, it is necessary to assess its characteristics and determine its classification carefully. Here are the key steps involved:

Assess Attachment or Independence: Consider whether your structure is attached to any other structure or stands independently. If a structure is not attached to any other structure, it is considered a building on its own.

Evaluate Independent Sections: If a structure is not attached to any other structure but contains one or more independent sections, each independent section is also classified as a building. An independent section is defined as a section within a structure that has its own entrance and exit accessible from anywhere within that section. It either has no access to any other section of the wider building or only has access to another section that does not contain a residential unit.

Determine Attached Structures: If two or more structures are attached to each other, they are considered a single building, known as a “wider building.” However, if the attached structures contain one or more independent sections, each independent section is classified as a separate building.

Consider Construction Phase: It’s important to note that the definitions in paragraphs (2) and (4) of regulation 4 of the Regulations do not apply while a building is being constructed or proposed to be constructed. This is because that during the construction phase, the building may still undergo changes, making it difficult to determine its classification accurately. Once construction is complete, the definitions become relevant for classification.

Buidling owners must carefully analyse their structure, its attachments, and independent sections to determine how the building definition applies to your specific scenario. This knowledge is essential for accurately identifying higher-risk buildings and subsequently assessing them against height or storeys thresholds and use criteria.

Additionally, it’s important to refer to the diagrams provided in the government guidance, as they offer practical examples of different building types and how they are considered under the building definition. These examples can assist you in evaluating your own building and its classification.

Remember that if your structure contains independent sections, any plant rooms within those sections should be considered as part of that specific building. It is crucial to cooperate with other accountable persons involved in the building to manage the safety risks associated with plant rooms effectively.

3. Counting Storeys and Measuring Height

What is the Process for Counting Storeys and Measuring Height?

Counting storeys and measuring height accurately is a critical step in determining if a building meets the higher-risk threshold. It involves following a standardised process to ensure consistency and reliability in classification.

Why is Counting Storeys and Measuring Height Important?

Counting storeys and measuring height play a crucial role in providing objective criteria for assessing the risk level of a building. By utilising standardised measurement techniques, it ensures that buildings are classified consistently and accurately, enabling effective identification of higher-risk structures.

How to Count Storeys and Measure Height Correctly?

To count storeys, consider each level that is either wholly or partly above the ground level. This includes all habitable floors and intermediate levels. Non-habitable floors such as mechanical rooms or storage areas may also be included depending on the specific regulations or guidance.

When measuring height, it is important to follow the standardised methods outlined in the regulations. This typically involves measuring from the ground level to the highest point of the building, including any rooftop structures or features that are integral to the building’s design.

By adhering to these counting and measuring guidelines, you can accurately assess the height and number of storeys of a building. If the measurements indicate that your building reaches a height of 18 meters or has at least seven storeys, it falls within the higher-risk category, subject to meeting other relevant criteria as well.


In conclusion, understanding the higher-risk building classification and assessment process is crucial for ensuring the safety and compliance of structures. The article has provided detailed information on key aspects related to determining if a building falls within the higher-risk category, including the building definition, use criteria, exclusions, counting storeys, and measuring height.

The building definition serves as the foundation for identifying higher-risk buildings and covers both single structures and multiple structures connected in various ways. It clarifies what constitutes a building and allows for the consideration of independent sections within an overall structure.

The use criteria play a significant role in determining if a building is higher-risk. Buildings with at least two residential units and meeting the height or storeys threshold are generally classified as higher-risk. However, exclusions apply to certain building types, such as hospitals, care homes, secure residential institutions, hotels, or military barracks.

Counting storeys and measuring height accurately are essential for assessing a building’s risk level. By following standardized methods, one can ensure consistency and reliability in determining if a building meets the higher-risk threshold. Proper measurement techniques provide objective criteria and facilitate consistent classification across different structures.

Overall, being familiar with the building definition, use criteria, exclusions, and measurement guidelines enables accurate identification and classification of higher-risk buildings. This knowledge empowers building owners, managers, and regulators to implement appropriate safety measures and mitigate potential risks effectively.

In conclusion, the understanding and application of the higher-risk building assessment process contribute to enhancing building safety and protecting occupants, reinforcing the importance of compliance with relevant regulations and guidelines.

Stay proactive in prioritising building safety!


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