Proposed changes to Part B of the building regulations put onus on sprinklers and improved access for firefighters.

Builders will have to install sprinkler systems in tall buildings and residential care homes under proposed changes to the fire safety regulations.

The proposed change to Part B of the building regulations is among a series of radical measures that could cost the industry £81m a year.

Under the proposals fire escapes could disappear as designers will be given the option to install sprinkler systems instead of escape routes in buildings over 7.5m high. For buildings over 30m high the proposal is to make sprinklers mandatory.

The government said it was proposing sprinklers as an alternative to secondary means of escape to increase design flexibility.

Housing minister Yvette Cooper said that sprinklers had an important role in fire protection. Self-closing devices on the other hand were less favoured – the consultation document suggests removing most of these from dwellings as they are inconvenient and are often disabled by occupants. Self-closing devices will still be required onto garages and common escape routes.

Other proposals include providing fire protection in warehouse corridors, and providing firefighter-friendly designs for tall buildings. The government also said it intended to insist on smoke alarms in main bedrooms and domestic extensions, require more cavity barriers and remove the separate guidance on loft conversions in dwellings.