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, 8 December 2016


ICC just released their preliminary online voting results, and Proposal RB129-16, which attempted to remove the residential sprinkler requirement from the International Residential Code, is shown as DISAPPROVED.  Therefore, the requirement to install fire sprinklers all newly constructed homes will remain in the 2018 edition of the IRC.

We were also successful in gaining approval of two changes that incentivize and support sprinkler requirements, Proposals RB89-16 and ADM36-16. However, we came up short of the required 2/3 majority to overturn committee recommendations on Proposals RB51-16 (dealing specifically with stacked duplexes), and RB69-16 (dealing with protection of lightweight floor assemblies).

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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Independent Testing of Plumis' Award Winning Watermist System

A common denominator linking manufacturers of reliable, trustworthy, quality-controlled construction products is independent third-party testing. Before taking their products to market, these manufacturers invest in the help of independent third party laboratories, such as fire protection testing specialist Exova Warringtonfire, to negotiate a complex labyrinth of research, development, assessments and testing.
One such manufacturer is Plumis, the James Dyson Award-winning inventors of the Automist active fire protection concept and manufacturers of a small range of innovative products that propelled them to be named Innovators of the Year by the CBI in 2014.
Their latest product, the Automist Smartscan, is an elegantly engineered, water-saving, efficient, affordable and highly effective watermist system (sprinkler replacement). It uses an under-researched technology – water mist – in a new way to provide active fire protection in the home. Such is the innovation of the product’s design, it has already gained international recognition with an award for the best “interior design elements” product in the renowned Red Dot Design Awards 2016.
The story of how Exova Warringtonfire collaborated to test the Smartscan to be accepted in the UK market is a parable of persistence, commitment and belief in marginal gains.
Scene Setting
Passionate about their product, Plumis understood their responsibility to ensure that it worked and met all the relevant product standards. And after all, compliance with recognised standards is what their market looks for, especially the approving bodies.
They rapidly discovered, however, that the Smartscan falls outside the prescriptive scope of the then draft but now published BS 8458:2015 Fixed fire protection systems. Residential and domestic watermist systems. Code of practice for design and installation.
Alarmingly, they had no standard to comply with. There are water mist standards that come close in other sectors and for other applications, and of course there are generic fire tests of various kinds, but no product standard for their particular specification. Although they could still test the Smartscan to BS 8458’s performance standards, they could never claim that it complied. Theirs was an orphan product.
While this in no way damped their commitment to safety, fitness for purpose, or quality, it did make life awkward.
The residential specifier market in the UK – the people they want to buy the product – is diverse. The volume housebuilders are more demanding than private domestic homeowners, but with appropriate marketing the lack of a standard to comply with is not an insurmountable obstacle.
On the other hand, the people who would allow the product to be used – building control officers, fire officers and local authority inspectors – are just as important to commercial success but trickier to persuade. They are the gatekeepers to wide-scale acceptance.
For them, approval is loaded with the deadweight of liability, particularly for life-critical products like the Smartscan. By whipping the safety net of compliance out from under their feet they are left with no convenient shortcut to unburdening this liability.
This was a concern for Plumis, and set them on a heroic, comprehensive programme of testing with Exova Warringtonfire that, with no irony intended, sets new standards for orphan products.
BS 8435:2015 Test 1 – Room corner (Spray head on opposite wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 1 – Room corner (Spray head on opposite wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 1 – Room corner (Spray head on opposite wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 1 – Room corner (Spray head on opposite wall).
What Is It?
Their Automist Smartscan product is an active fire suppression system, a reliable replacement to a water sprinkler. The concept uses water mist – an increasingly popular, highly effective fire suppressant in many circumstances – to either extinguish fires or suppress them long enough to allow people to escape safely and firefighters to attend.
Water mist has a large surface area and so quells the heat produced in a fire more efficiently than sprinkled water. As it reaches the seat of the fire, it starves it of oxygen. By keeping the ambient temperature comparatively low, it prevents or delays flashovers.
Its USP and appeal
Powered by an isolated electrical circuit, the Smartscan comprises a natty high-pressure pump and, uniquely for a water mist system, a single wall-mounted, swivelling misting nozzle. This nozzle is fitted with an automatic infrared heat detector that targets the source of a fire reliably and very accurately, limiting water damage – a major attraction for owners, occupants and insurers alike.
Wall-mounting instead of ceiling-mounting is no fanciful whim either. Shooting water mist sideways avoids the super-hot evaporative upper layers under the ceiling, allowing mist to reach the seat of the fire sooner.
Unlike sprinklers or conventional water mist systems, it uses less water, requires less supporting infrastructure and is thus more easily retrofitted.
BS 8435:2015 Test 2 – Room corner (Spray head on same wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 2 – Room corner (Spray head on same wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 2 – Room corner (Spray head on same wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 2 – Room corner (Spray head on same wall).
Its use
While suitable for all residential newbuild or refurbishment projects under ten storeys, the Smartscan comes into its own during domestic retrofit. In particular, it allows you to overcome the constraints imposed by the Building Regulations when converting a loft. The consequence of going into the loft above first floor level is that you need to preserve a protected escape route out of the house, compromising aspirations for open-plan layouts on the ground floor.
Before the Smartscan (and Plumis’s LABC-approved multi-nozzle product, also in the Automist range), design options in this common scenario were limited. You either had to retrofit a ceiling-mounted sprinkler system at vast expense and much disruption, devise a validated fire engineering solution (again at considerable expense), or build the protected escape route separating the stairs and corridor to the outside from the rest of the ground floor.
Now, though, the Smartscan offers a fourth way. Orders of magnitude more affordable in certain situations, installing it into an existing house or other residential settings is straightforward. Better still, it stops people being tempted by the dummy wall solution, improving fire safety generally.
The challenge
The benefits of the Smartscan are apparently numerous and self-evident. At least, that was Plumis’s hope. Like all responsible manufacturers facing a stiff regulatory landscape in their target market geographies, to be taken seriously Plumis needed independent verification of their claims and third-party testing. Only then could they hope to evolve to wide-spread acceptance from the approving authorities and specifiers.
The route to market
They naturally turned to Exova Warringtonfire as the reputable partner in their product development, and the two companies worked together to create a dedicated water mist testing facility in an existing concrete block-lined spray-room. This is now a permanent facility open to all manufacturers.
From an initial programme of eight test sessions, it quickly became apparent that more was needed to plug the confidence gap. Much more. Indeed, Plumis are now into their 80th round and counting. What’s more, Exova Warrintonfire is now very experienced at testing to BS 8458.
BS 8435:2015 Test 3 – Centre (Spray head on opposite wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 3 – Centre (Spray head on opposite wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 3 – Centre (Spray head on opposite wall).
BS 8435:2015 Test 3 – Centre (Spray head on opposite wall).
Testing, testing
The development of the Smartscan was no ordinary road. It received seed money worth £160K from the Technology Strategy Board (now called InnovateUK) to type-approve it with the objective of making it as good as or better than a sprinkler system.
Early fixed-head prototypes were developed with the help of computational fluid dynamics modelling by the University of Greenwich’s Fire Safety Engineering Group. It became apparent that to maximize its reach, the water mist would have to be sprayed in an axehead blade.
The most obvious orientation, a fixed wall-mounted horizontal blade, wasn’t working well enough in standard tests conducted by Exova Warringtonfire. Although it was good at avoiding evaporative losses and thus reaching the seat of the fire more quickly, it was still outperformed by sprinklers. Plumis were advised that the problem was that not enough water mist was reaching the target.
With countless trial-and-error iterations under their belt, the penny finally dropped. To deluge the fire appropriately, the axehead blade should be vertically oriented. This was a eureka moment, proving that it was possible to match the performance of water sprinklers – but only up to a point. (See pic 2 and graph 1 below)
A vertical blade would work on fires that happened to be in the path of the spray, sure, but what about fires slightly to one side?
Although this was another challenge for Plumis, the vertical orientation breakthrough held enough promise to push them on to further testing at Exova Warringtonfire. A smart move, as it turned out.
The solution was staring them in the face. The misting nozzle would have to be able to detect the source of the heat and then swivel accurately and reliably to target the fire before activation. (See Pic 3 below) This is harder than it sounds. Early prototypes of the infrared sensor were confused by hotspots away from the seat of the fire.
A good many months and many tests on and with countless prototypes consigned to the scrapheap, the Automist Smartscan was born. Thanks to Exova Warringtonfire’s third-party testing regime, the infrared heat detector mounted on the nozzle head proved a suitable sprinkler replacement, more than matching the performance standards set out in BS 8458. (See results graphs 2- 4 below)
Aware of the need for evidence, Plumis have pushed the Smartscan’s limits beyond the bare minimum, challenging it in many additional tests to suppress or extinguish fires in any position (even difficult fires obscured or hidden by furniture) and in a variety of draught conditions.
Demonstration tests have convincingly proved its worth time and time again. It has even travelled to the USA, where the UL 1926/2167 listing process is being kicked off and where it favourably impressed fire risk authorities in initial testing.
Active fire safety systems are and will always be a ‘reluctance purchase’ for specifiers. Approving authorities will rightly regard innovative systems, i.e. ones that cannot comply with a product standard, with suspicion, too, preferring to err on the side of caution where life safety is at stake.
In spite of that, Plumis collaborated triumphantly with Exova Warringtonfire to overcome these barriers. With measured belief in their concept, enormous persistence, and, critically, the wisdom, knowledge and help of independent third-party testing, they have amassed an undeniable independent weight of evidence that it works. It proves that great ideas will win through. The Smartscan was launched in February 2016, and Exova Warringtonfire is now one of the most experienced water mist testers in the UK.
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Friday, 14 October 2016

Automist Smartscan steals the show at the 16th Annual International Water Mist Conference

William Makant of Plumis presented the company's new Automist Smartscan technology to a packed and captivated audience at the 16th Annual International Water Mist Conference, held in Vienna September 21-22, 2016, organized by the International Water Mist Association (IWMA).

He presented the story behind the evolution of the James Dyson award-winning Automist®, Automist Smartscan which relocates the traditional spray heads from the ceiling to a wall mounted nozzle, and uses a rotating head that directly targets fires with a powerful jet of water mist. It has been proven to achieve the same performance as residential sprinkler systems and typically uses 90% less water, minimising the potential for water damage to the living space.

Automist Smartscan has risen in popularity among architects and builders for being super easy to retrofit—without requiring a tank or network of pipes. It offers more than a reliable safety device for fighting fires; it’s an intelligent modern design feature offering greater flexibility for projects with challenging building regulations, from loft conversions to more open-plan homes and flats.

The UK has published its first standard for residential water-mist systems BS 8458:2015 which has similarities to UL 2167 and FM 5560 tests, like using a 8m x 4m x 2.5m room and 2.5MW peak HRR 2-foam, crib, heptane pool and plywood wall fire load.  However, the standard has additional testing scenarios such as forced ventilation (to simulate a wind draught) and an “open room” arrangement.  A total of 82 full scale fire tests were carried out at Exova Warringtonfire against this standard test to validate a series of design proposals intended to meet the performance requirements of this standard. 

These included:

- Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and the use of a horizontal planar water-mist blade in an attempt to maximise water density at the base of the fire and away from the ceiling hot layer.
- the use of passive dosing of a surfactant additive to maximise the suppression performance of the deployed water-mist
- the use of alternative detection sensors to reduce time for activation of suppression system
- directional targeting of water-mist to the fire location using a moving spray head and an infra-red sensor to maximise water density where the fire is located.

The key findings were that with small residential fires (the suppression system was activated with fires HRR between 100kW and 600kW), water mist does not operate according to its traditional principle of being drawn into the fire because the small heat release causes less evaporation and creates smaller gas flow velocities in the room.  Additionally, it was noted that some of the BS 8458 objectives, of testing droplet drift through forced ventilation, for example, impacts negatively the performance of traditional sprinklers as much as water mist.  It was concluded that an alternative suppression technique, of creating a turbulent, localised, mist saturated environment was necessary in order to successfully suppress such small fires. 

The event organizer, the International Water Mist Association, is a global association dedicated to water mist firefighting and related technologies, and the Conference drew a crowd of 100 fire safety and water mist industry leaders.

The Automist Smartscan presentation was given a special mention by the Chairman Ragnar Wighus who confirmed the admission of Automist to the exclusive "Archimedes Club" for wise use of watermist technology.  Plumis were honoured with the mention. 

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Watermist enabling open plan design

Watermist systems installed in buildings can reduce the fire risk to life.  It can also significantly reduce the degree of damage caused by fire and provide property protection.

Watermist fire suppression systems have demonstrated their value in assisting the protection of life and property in industrial and commercial applications for many years. A mist system operates at an earlier stage in the development of a fire when compared to sprinklers and in many cases are more practical to install, especially in small buildings. Sprinklers can also cause significant water damage when activated, which is minimised when compared to mist.

In my opinion, with the recognition that the largest number of fire related deaths occur in the home, the introduction of a standardised domestic watermist fire suppression systems marks a significant move in the right direction for the fire safety industry.

British Standard (BSI standard “BS 8458:201) compliant watermist systems protection can be used in order to reduce the fire risk, and as a compensatory feature where the provisions of fire safety guidance are deviated from in some way.

Automist Smartscan in a open plan kitchen
For example, where a new habitable storey is to be added by converting the loft, and/or creating “open plan” at ground floor, the provisions for escape need to be considered throughout the full extent of the escape route. In many cases, to be compliant with the guidance, a stairway needs to be fire protected to provide safe escape route for occupants from upper floors. Alternatively, it may be possible to provide mist protection to the open-plan area, in conjunction with fire-resisting partition; fire curtain, fire doors or additional ventilation equipment. This will allow the occupants of the loft room to access an escape window at first floor level in the event of a fire in the open-plan area. There may also be cases where this partition can be avoided and a bespoke fire engineered solution can be developed negating this requirement.  This is subject to a case by case assessment of the project by a qualified fire engineer and the associated risk assessment followed by building control approval of the strategy.

Therefore, as part of the overall fire strategy for a project, a mist system can be a valuable asset with benefits of reduced risk to life safety, design flexibility and non-invasive installation. From a fire engineering standpoint, I believe the move towards mist systems to be a highly positive one. While sprinklers may still be appropriate for larger buildings and property protection applications, mist systems appear to be a better fit for small or domestic developments.

Content provided by Paul Yeomans of Fire-Q


Search a database of suppliers that includes architects, builders, installers, surveyors, loft conversion specialists, approved building inspectors and many more involved in the making of open spaces:

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


Automist Smartscan has been awarded the Build It Awards 2016 - Best Home Technology Product, in association with BuildStore.

The Build It Awards, in association with BuildStore, celebrate all aspects of self build and renovation, including completed projects, services and suppliers. The awards bring together architects, manufacturers and key industry figures in recognition of innovation and excellence in the custom home sector.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Essential facts you need to know about open plan layouts & their building regulations

Open plan living is fast becoming increasingly popular thanks to its ability to offer a greater sense of space and light; both of which have seen a healthy effect to the value of redesigned residential developments in recent years.

Whether you’re looking to create an open plan kitchen/diner, a loft conversion or split-level ground floor, it’s essential you check what building regulations your project will need to pass as these could put a considerable constraint on your much-anticipated designs.

You may require planning permission, particularly if load-bearing walls need to be removed and, if you’re planning a loft conversion, or opening up an enclosed staircase creating an essential fire escape route, you’ll require specialist fire suppression advice from a qualified Fire Engineer.

So, whether you’re a homeowner, landlord, architect or interior designer, we’ve put together a guide to everything you might need to know about making your home open plan.

Types of open plan layouts:

An open plan layout combines one or more rooms into a single, open space, resulting in your project featuring larger rooms with few or no internal dividing walls.

There are three types of open plan layouts: 

o   Type 1 – Combining your kitchen with another habitable room, such as a living or dining room. This type of open plan design does not allow for a fire escape route, and there are no bedrooms leading off from the open planned design area.

o   Type 2 – The staircase or fire escape route has been combined with a habitable room, such as a living or dining area. This type of open planned design allows for the kitchen to remain separate. This type of open planned living often features inside flats where bedrooms are accessed via the living room.

o   Type 3 – A kitchen and possibly other rooms have been designed open plan to incorporate the main escape route from the property. An example of this open planned living is when a main staircase passes through a kitchen/diner.

All open plan layouts must comply with stringent building regulations, even if planning permission isn’t required. It’s always worth remembering that the more open plan the layout, and the higher the property from the ground floor, the greater volume of restrictions there will be.

Types of open plan layout that are permitted:

Building regulations are written in very general terms, but assuming your property has the correct number of fire doors and escape windows at the first floor and below, the following
open planned layouts are permitted:

o   Type 1 open plan layouts will normally always be allowed.

o   In open planned two story houses (or two stories plus a basement) you’ll also be allowed type 2 and 3 layouts. However, on the Isle of Man, you’ll need a fire suppression system.

o   In three story open planned designed houses (or three stories plus basement), a type 2 open planned layout is allowed in England and Wales, providing you fit a fire suppression system in the open area. You don’t normally require this technology on upper stories, but you will require a fire door between the ground and first floor. You may be permitted a type 3 open planned layout, but you’d need a report from a Fire Engineer and, in most cases, an alarm system and other fire safety measures.

o   For open planned designed houses of four stories and above, you’re likely to need a fire suppression system throughout most of your property, or a second fire escape staircase from the upper floors. A type 1 open planned layout will typically be permitted but, as with most three story houses, you’ll require specialist advice from a Fire Engineer.

o   In open planned designed flats, no higher than the first floor, you should be permitted to create type 2 or 3 layouts, though you may have some constraints put on kitchen location.

o   In open planned designed flats above the first floor, you’re permitted to create open plan layouts if you install a fire suppression system, but this guidance is ongoing in development. You may be required to consult a Fire Engineer or a Building Inspector for further advice.

o   In some buildings, it is essential that open plan flats have a lobby or hallway between the front door and the open plan area. This is a key safety feature therefore it’s best to assume it has to stay, though it’s always worth discussing with a Fire Engineer.

If you’re ever unsure whether your project complies with the regulations, a quick call to your local council’s building control team or a private approved inspector, will clarify.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Award-winning design, premium products and a touch of Hollywood in Essen: Red Dot Gala 2016

On 4 July, everyone who was anyone in international design came to Essen, Germany. In spring, a 41-strong jury had awarded the coveted Red Dot label for good design to the most outstanding products of the year. Now it was time to pay tribute to the winning creations and the people who made them. The Red Dot: Best of the Best winners were ceremoniously presented with their trophies on the imposing stage of the Aalto-Theater. Following the presentations, the 1,800 guests enjoyed an evening of dancing and networking at the Designers’ Night in the Red Dot Design Museum in the midst of award-winning innovations.

The award winners of the Red Dot: Best of the Best were honoured on 4 July 2016 in the course of the Red Dot Gala, hosted by Professor Dr. Peter Zec in the Aalto-Theater in Essen. The founder and CEO of Red Dot welcomed distinguished guests on stage, among them Red Dot jury member Kristiina Lassus, automotive design legend Ken Okuyama and Transrapid designer Alexander Neumeister. Dressed in a traditional white tuxedo, the Red Dot president also welcomed the Lord Mayor of Essen, Thomas Kufen, on stage, who immediately invited the award-winners – all international top designers and high-ranking company representatives – to the Essen town hall the next day.

Automist Smartscan by Plumis was awarded in the Product Design Category. The jury said of the fire sprinkler alternative, "An innovative design concept that elevates the principle of fire sprinklers to a new level. The system is defined as an integrated part of the interior and equipped with highly advanced functionality. The topic of fire safety is thus expanded by a pathbreaking novel interpretation. This fire sprinkler system emerged as a design element within a living space, unifying safety with elegance"

Illustrious guests from 39 countries followed the proceedings on stage as the laureates received their trophies. Tremendous applause went, amongst others, to Flavio Manzoni, chief designer at Ferrari, and Sean Carney, chief designer at Philips. Only 79 products were awarded the greatest single distinction, the Red Dot: Best of the Best. The gala was rounded off with a cultural fringe programme that included an appearance by violinist Beatrix Löw-Beer and the Aalto Ballett Essen.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Cost effective sprinkler alternative used to protect Edinburgh apartment

Plumis Automist was used in a loft conversion on the fourth floor of a 19th Century building in a prime, residential area of Edinburgh to comply with building regulations and to provide unobtrusive fire protection. Paulo Gaggero, an Italian Outsource Manager for the contact centre industry who has lived in the city for over 20 years wanted extra space but was disinclined to move. The alternative was to convert his loft but, because there was no fire escape Edinburgh City Council’s Planning Department insisted that he install fire protection measures. Paolo was extremely reluctant to install sprinklers because of the expense and because space was at a premium. Furthermore, the fact that his apartment is on the upper floors of the block means that water damage caused by the discharge of copious amounts of water could cause considerable harm to the lower floors of the building.

He researched fire suppression on the internet and discovered Automist from Plumis, a simple, retrofit, alternative to sprinklers for full room active fire protection. Automist works by using a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist. The device automatically and reliably detects and suppresses incipient fires before they can take hold and cause devastating damage and potential injury or loss of life. The system is activated utilising a heat detector as recommended in Approved Document B, effectively eliminating nuisance alarms. It fits seamlessly into any décor. Paolo identified Blue Light Safety Ltd, an independent fire safety company offering a total solutions service for every aspect of fire safety and called in Daniel Smith MIFSM MIFPO, Commercial Director who founded Blue Light in early 2012 to advise. Daniel recommended the installation of 2 Automist pumps and 3 heads covering the hallway upstairs, the stairs leading to the hallway downstairs and the original hallway leading to the landing meaning that there was coverage of all the escape routes. Other rooms were protected by fire doors.

Paulo Gaggerro was delighted with Automist. “Automist looks like a piece of art and I am thrilled with my discovery. My property has increased considerably in value thanks in part to this innovative piece of equipment.”

London interior designers use Plumis Automist to enable modern design

Plumis Automist was used at a north London property to provide a cost effective and appropriate fire protection solution, which was acceptable to the clients of Living-in Space, an interior design company based in Belsize Park, London. The clients did not want a door separating the kitchen on the lower ground floor from the open plan staircase. Q&A Builders added an additional floor to the terraced house with a loft conversion and due to the height of the proposed building, Building Regulations stipulated that there should be separation or that a sprinkler system should be installed. Angelique Tracey, Senior Interior Designer who was overseeing the project was very reluctant to compromise the design and layout of the conversion by installing a protected escape route or risk the drenching of high quality fixtures and fittings in the event of a discharge by sprinklers. She spoke to Steve Moore from Salus, the private building inspectors who suggested they investigate Plumis Automist, a water mist system which is a very cost-effective alternative to sprinklers. Automist has the added advantage of eliminating the need for a water storage tank. The client had coincidentally studied at the Royal Academy of Arts with the inventors of the innovative system, so was very keen to explore this option and utilise the technology.

Elegant broken plan kitchen dinner
Automist works by using a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles mounted under a standard tap, stand alone on a work top or even a wall and provides residential fire life protection. It integrates seamlessly into high-specification designs and opens up opportunities offering significant design flexibility.

Open plan kitchen diner in London

Vapourmist, the local accredited installer fitted Automist in the ceiling of the open plan area on the lower ground floor in a matter of a couple of hours meaning that there was no delay in the building project.

Angelique was delighted with her discovery. “The system enabled us to achieve the desired open plan design at a reasonable cost and without compromising fire safety. I would definitely use Automist in future design projects where ease of installation and aesthetic considerations are paramount.”