Wayfinding Signage for the Fire Service

Level identification sign in Solstice Apartments
Flat indicator signs in an apartment building

Examples of floor level identification and flat indicator signs

In November 2020, amendments to The Building Regulations 2010 came into force. These amendments were made in response to the recommendations from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

This review led by Dame Judith Hackitt identified shortcomings in the wayfinding information and the fire safety instructions provided to Grenfell residents. Namely that landings were not clearly marked with the relevant floor numbers and did not reflect additional floors created during a refurbishment. The review also noted that fire safety information notices were provided in written English, despite a number of the residents not having `English as their first language’. So, a further recommendation was to ensure that fire safety instructions are provided in a form that occupants can be reasonably expected to understand.

The consequent amendments to the Building Regulations 2010, cover wayfinding signage for the fire service. These apply to all flat/apartment buildings with a top storey more that 11m above ground and encompass floor level identification signs and flat number indicator/directional signs (i.e. information about the flats located on each floor). The regulations cover sign locations and position; visibility; typeface; letter & number heights; background and legibility; and nomenclature and numbering. Summarised in the table below:

Table summarising the regulatory requirements for wayfinding signage for the fire service

*Recognise that it may not be practical to mount all level identification signs at a uniform height throughout the building.

In their response to the broader consultation on fire safety, RIBA’s view was that the amendments should extend to high-risk multi-storey buildings where people sleep e.g. hospitals, care homes, hotels, hostels and also schools. Most building owners or operators of complex public buildings will implement a wayfinding system as part of their customer service or operations management strategy. As any credible wayfinding solution for a multi-storey building will include level identification, facility identification and directional signs at all vertical circulation points, perhaps the directives above should be adopted as good practice for all building uses.

Note: For details and specific requirements, see May 2020 amendments to Approved Document B, volume 1 and volume 2