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.

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.

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