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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.