Welcome to the Plumis fire protection blog. Stay informed about domestic fire safety, fire building regulations and ADB-compliant solutions for open plan living. Please feel free to browse through the posts and comment about what you read.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New site launched: Open plan alliance

Homes with open layouts have become some of the most popular and sought-after house plans available today. An open floor plan can make your home feel larger, even if the square footage is modest. By eliminating doorways and widening the passages to dining and living areas, you obtain a sense of spaciousness that divided rooms lack. However these layouts are often at odds with fire building regulations which require compartmentation to limit the spread of fire compromising the escape route.

The Open Plan Alliance is a knowledge-centre focused on promoting information and guidance on how homeowners and architects alike, can create the layouts they desire whilst conforming with fire building regulations and keeping their homes safe.

Check it out here:

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fire Suppress Ltd use Plumis Automist to comply with Approved Document B in new build in Somerset

Plumis Automist has been installed to provide a cost-effective, aesthetically pleasing and fire regulation compliant solution for a Swedish, pine kit house.The design and location of a new build can have significant budget implications and this build is on a steep hill overlooking the Somerset Levels. To make the project viable, construction costs had to be kept to a minimum. However, Approved Document B demanded the use of fire suppression measures primarily because of the 45 metre access rule but also the open plan design with a 25 foot high ceiling! The traditional solution would have been an expensive sprinkler system but there were issues about installing and servicing sprinkler heads on the high ceiling – a servicing/stop mechanism could not be used as the heads would be inaccessible and if there was an accidental discharge it would be unstoppable.

An alternative solution was required and the end client was delighted to discover Automist from Plumis, which would provide a cost-effective, unobtrusive and more than adequate means of fire suppression. Fire Suppress Ltd, who provide Fire Protection solutions throughout the South West and South Wales were commissioned to provide the full service from specification for the Approved Inspectors to subsequent installation. Fellow Directors Chris Farr and Mark Evans recommend Automist because it meets the requirements of Approved Document B and offers design flexibility. Mark commented: “Automist offered a practical solution for this development to conform with B5 of the building regulations (access and facilities for the fire service) and was installed within one working day. Its unobtrusive features had no adverse effect on the building’s aesthetics and there are no concerns about flooding.”

Automist provides residential fire protection by means of a high pressure pump which generates a fine water mist from nozzles mounted under a standard tap, on a worktop or, as in this case, it can be wall-mounted. This innovative solution works by suppressing flames and limiting smoke and heat. It uses significantly less water than traditional sprinklers, minimising runoff and consequential water damage, a vital consideration for this new build.  Automist has been extensively tested by BRE and is also an LABC Registered Solution for loft conversions (RD171) so Mark and Chris know that it is completely reliable.

Mainpoint Install Automist in Prestigious Cheltenham Development

It is notoriously difficult to carry out any retrofit work on heritage buildings at the same time as complying with building regulations. Mainpoint Fire Protection Ltd, established in Cheltenham in 1991 faced this problem when they were asked to install fire protection in eight flats in the prestigious Oriel Road Villas development in Cheltenham. The Grade II listed buildings are typically ornate examples of regency architecture – a heritage which demanded to be safeguarded.

When Mike Fowler, Mainpoint’s MD sought approval to meet the requirements of Approved Document B he was told that fire protection such as sprinklers was required. However, in this style of building it is crucial to avoid disruption or damage to historic plasterwork and fine decoration. Therefore it was important to avoid the pipework involved in a domestic sprinkler system. Mike selected Automist from Plumis, a cost effective alternative to sprinklers, ideal for Regency buildings where it is vital to protect period features for 6 of the 8 flats. It also saves time and therefore cost, is discreet and completely effective.

Where appropriate Automist can be installed as a viable alternative to a domestic sprinkler system with installation and operational benefits. It is an innovative solution, using a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles, resulting in rapid and automatic fire suppression. Installation is neat and economical with the need for significantly less pipework and disruption than a traditional sprinkler system. And crucially, the fabric of the property, fixtures and fittings in the event of a discharge are not adversely affected, a significant consideration in the prestigious Oriel development.

Mike Fowler stresses that much of the success of the project is down to the use of Automist. “This project would not have gained Building Control approval without the design flexibility that Automist offers. Thanks to Automist, further heritage projects in Gloucestershire have opened up for Mainpoint.”

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Easy to retrofit fire protection utilised in HMOs

The problem of meeting HMO licensing conditions at the same time as maximising income potential and avoiding unnecessary, costly and time consuming building work for landlords can be resolved by the installation of Plumis Automist, the first active fire protection system that combines low cost and ease of retrofit with excellent aesthetics and which is intended as a less potentially damaging alternative to residential sprinklers. A HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) is a building or a part of a building that is occupied by more than two persons living as more than one household. National guidance on fire safety in residential accommodation applies nationally and adopts a risk-based approach to fire safety that will satisfy both the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The guidance and these laws apply to all landlords, but are more strictly enforced where a landlord licensing scheme is in place. All Local Authorities must run such a scheme for larger HMOs, but a number of councils have now used their powers under part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 to extend this licensing either to all landlords in a problem area, or often to all HMOs.

HMO conditions vary greatly around the country, but it some areas problem layouts are common, with escape routes passing through open plan, communal rooms such as lounge and kitchen areas, which may be situated above ground floor level. Traditionally, these buildings are required to have a thirty minute protected route allowing occupants to escape without the necessity of passing through a risk room, but installing a fire resistant partition would reduce the lettable space and hence the rental value of a property. If current arrangements are such that an open plan, escape route room does not meet this standard, an active fire suppression system should be installed. Until recently, this meant the installation of residential sprinkler systems with all their attendant drawbacks.

Automist is an ideal fire suppression system that complies with licence conditions and is a cost effective alternative to sprinkler systems. It can be installed quickly meaning minimal interference to tenants or damage to the property. There is very little visible equipment and the system provides 24 hour, 365 day protection for tenants in the event of a fire. Significantly, it allows HMO landlords to avoid compromising the design and income potential of the property. Automist uses a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles mounted under a standard tap or can be mounted stand alone on a work top or even a wall. Automist gives designers a number of active fire protection options to protect escape routes and aid evacuation for a fraction of the cost of a traditional sprinkler system or the installation of passive escape routes.

Automist provides viable solution for 4 storey Georgian conversion in Bridport

The necessary compliance with fire regulations in a conversion project can mean that design is compromised, costs are greatly increased and sprinklers may need to be installed with the potential for significant disruption.

The owners of a 4 storey Georgian building in Bridport with high ceilings and lots of architectural features faced these problems when they wanted to convert the property into 2 maisonettes. They asked Mark Evans, Director and owner of Firemaster of Brixham, Devon to advise on and install fire protection. However, several obstacles stood in the way of an aesthetically pleasing, cost effective solution. The means of escape from the 2nd floor meant that a protected route was required which would enable occupants to reach the 1st floor level and then pass the kitchen - which was the higher risk room - to the final exit door. Because the size of this room meant that making it smaller would render it oppressive, an open plan aspect was considered.  However, conventional application of Approved Doc B required the kitchen to be closed in due to its location on the property’s escape route. Furthermore, it was crucial that any fire suppression should be easily retrofitted as the conversion was already almost complete when the owners were advised by Building Control that they would need to install alternative measures.

There was a dilemma. In order to achieve the design and cost requirements, an innovative solution to fire suppression was needed. Fortunately, a family member who is an architect came up with a realistic solution – Automist from Plumis. Automist uses a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles mounted under a standard tap for effective residential fire life suppression and fulfilled all the requirements - it can be easily retrofitted, is very cost effective and does not involve the use of sprinklers.

Mark Evans commented, “Following the installation of Automist, our clients were able to fulfil their aspirations for an open plan design and feel that they have really added to the property’s safety giving them confidence and assurance and allowing them to comply with Building Regulations. Firemaster would definitely recommend Automist in situations where design, retrofit and budget considerations are paramount.”

Automist Fire Suppression for Private Development in W1

Private developers are just as demanding as local authorities and still need to meet the requirements of Approved Document B whatever the aesthetic considerations and budgetary constraints. Hammersmith’s Devonport Property Consulting were developing 5 Devonport Mews in West London and were faced with the need to install fire protection but they were not inclined to fit water sprinklers Their objections included the problem of excessive discharge of water if activated which would adversely affect the new décor and the need for pipework and wiring which would increase building costs and cause time delays.

Elite Fire Safety Ltd of Dartford in Kent were commissioned to provide fire protection services at the conversion and were faced with the challenge of coming up with an alternative system that would meet the requirements of Approved Document B at the same time as satisfying the aesthetic and budgetary demands inherent in this prestigious London development. Neil Perring of Elite Fire Safety proposed the use of Plumis, Automist as the solution, which he had used in several earlier projects and readily recommended it for Devonport Mews. 

Automist is easy to install whether retrofit or new build and no dedicated water supply, storage tanks or in line pressure pumps are needed, just 1.5 bar water pressure at the pump location. Single nozzle installations including commissioning take no more than a normal working day to complete. Automist was installed in Devonport Mews on two floors with a pump unit controlling 2 nozzles per floor to provide the best possible control to the areas requiring protection, each nozzle is designed to provide up to 32 square metres of floor area with a ceiling height of 2.4 metres. The system is activated utilising a heat detector as recommended in Approved Document B, effectively eliminating nuisance alarms. Dependent upon requirements either hard wired or wireless detectors can be used. The Automist pump unit with intergrated control unit was connected to the domestic water supply and requires only 6 litres of water per minute per nozzle to provide optimum fire suppression, which in comparison to traditional sprinklers minimises runoff and consequential water damage. Furthermore, because of the low flow required installation does not require approval by Water Authorities and thus avoids related disruption and additional works.

Automist's unique design also means it is significantly cheaper than other automatic fire extinguishing systems, home fire suppression devices and residential sprinklers. It is also neat and unobtrusive and is fitted beneath a standard mono-bloc tap or stand alone on a work surface or as wall mounted unit fitting neatly into a standard switch blanking plate that can be supplied in any finish to suit décor requirements.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Valentine’s Day: Cooking, candles and smoke, oh my!

Recent rumours that we’re headed for a triple dip recession will have tons of us skipping the romantic meals out this year and opting for an intimate evening in. This means more cooking, more candles and potentially more fires if we’re not careful.

To help you reduce your risk, we’ve put together some simple safety tips you can follow, you’re welcome!

Cooking tips

From 2011 to 2012, cooking appliances were the main source of ignition for 19, 612 accidental house fires. That’s over 52% of all domestic fires.

So before you get your Heston hat on, swat up on these safety tips:

     1.   Never leave pans unattended
It’s important that you have complete control of all your appliances and the substances they contain. If you need to leave the room, take your pans off the heat.

      2.   Don’t use matches or lighters to light gas stoves
When you use matches and lighters it may take several attempts to create a spark, during which time, excess gas will enter the room. Opt for a long-reach, gas fire lighter instead. It’ll also keep your hands away from the flame.

      3.   Ensure saucepan handles are turned out to either side of the cooker
This means that they’re not hovering over a flame, which could cause an ignition. It also means that handles aren’t protruding from the front of the cooker, so you’re less likely to knock it over. 

      4.   Cook before you crack open the wine
It’s easy to become lax with safety when alcohol’s involved!

      5.   Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stove
This means oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels or curtains, food packaging and loose sleeves.

Candle safety

Candles aren’t the worst culprits for starting domestic fires, but from 2011 to 2012, they were responsible for 952 accidental ignitions.

But you don’t have to cut candles out of Valentine’s Day altogether - you can just follow some simple guidelines:

      1.   Never place a lit candle directly on a surface
You can use a candle warmer, candle lantern, candle burner or candle tray – anything that’ll keep the candle firmly in place and off the bare surface.
Protect candles from draughts, curtains and other fabrics
Keep the flame contained with candle lanterns and other safe accessories.

      3.   Never go to sleep when candles are lit
Candles are often used to create a relaxed environment, so it’s easily done. If you start to feel drowsy, extinguish the flame.

      4.   Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets
Animals and kids may knock candles over or burn themselves.

      5.   Never move a candle once it’s lit
If you want to take a candle into another room, put the flame out first and allow the candle to cool before moving it.

      6.   Extinguish the flame with a snuffer or inverted metal spoon
This way, you get to avoid all of the problems associated with blowing hot wax.

Smoke alarm checks

It’s extremely surprising (and highly unnecessary) that in the case of 14, 891 fires in 2011 - 2012, there was no smoke alarms present. And in 7,852 cases, there was an alarm present, but didn’t operate.

Make sure your alarm’s working properly with this checklist:
      1.   Make sure there’s a smoke alarm fitted on every level of your home
You never know where an ignition might occur.

      2.   Change your battery annually
Most batteries last around a year, so it’s best to make a point of changing them every year.

      3.   Check your smoke alarm weekly
You can do this by pressing the button on your alarm until it sounds.

      4.   Vacuum the inside of your alarm every two years
You can open up your alarm case, or if it doesn’t open, hoover through the holes. This’ll make sure there’s no dust on the sensors. 

      5.   Replace your alarm every 10 years
You should buy an entirely new unit to replace the old one.

Author bio
Natasha Sabin is an avid blogger and fire safety enthusiast. She’s been let loose by Fire Safety Suppliers to share new, exciting, and somewhat disturbing developments in the world of fire. Email, or visit 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Providing adequate means of escape through an open plan ground floor after a loft conversion

All roof conversions must comply with the statutory Building Regulations Part B (Fire Safety) and therefore require Building Regulation approval. Specifically the Building Regulations acknowledge that the risk to life from a fire occurring in a three storey property is greater than that in a one or two storey dwelling.  However, when a single storey dwelling (Bungalow) is converted, the same requirements for means of escape and smoke detection should be adhered to. A dwelling, which is altered to include a third storey, should comply with the following requirements of the Building Regulations:

• Installation of smoke detectors
• Means of Escape
• Internal Fire Spread (Structure)
• External Fire Spread

Although the previous list might at first appear complex when it is broken down and applied to your loft conversion the requirements are usually quite easy to apply.

The guidance regarding means of escape when a third storey is added to an existing house the Building Regulations aims to ensure that in case of a fire the occupants can safely escape. Typically the existing staircase enclosure must extend to a final exit (starting with paragraph 2.18 ‘Enclosure of existing stair’); therefore an open plan arrangement at ground floor level is not acceptable.

However, Paragraph 0.18 of Approved Document B (ADB), Volume 1 2006 does suggest an alternative: the use of innovative fire suppression systems, such as Automist:

"0.18. There are many alternative or innovative fire suppression systems available.  Where these are used it is necessary to ensure that such systems have been designed and tested for use in domestic buildings and are fit for their intended purpose."

Automist is covered by an LABC Registered Detail (RD171) for use in open plan layouts in loft converted houses. The Registered Details scheme should allow building control officers to approve a project without a long and detailed investigation in the knowledge that the product has been rigorously checked by LABC members.