Fire Safety Design in Change of Use or Refurbishment Projects
Added on March 13th, 2019
By Helen Thomas
Refurbishments, including changing the use of a building, can provide a more cost-effective option compared to new build developments. However, whether changing the use of a building or refurbishing an older or historic property, fire safety requirements need to be considered to ensure they meet appropriate standards. Providing the right fire safety measures may impact on the building’s design, which is why fire engineers need to be brought into the project early on.
Approved Document B sets various travel distances for occupants to reach the nearest fire exit depending on the building’s use. When changing a building’s purpose, the internal design often needs to be remodelled. For example, in an office building there should be a maximum of 18m to the nearest exit where travel is only possible in one direction. However, this distance is more than halved for residential buildings where the allowable distance is just 7.5m from the front door if there is a single evacuation route. To accommodate these travel distances (more than 7.5m), alternative means of escape are required (i.e. additional staircases).
Historical buildings can also require additional considerations as the original design might not be compliant with modern fire safety guidelines, but the building may be listed or protected. In this case, the design of the fire safety systems will need to consider how the original features and aesthetics can be retained, while ensuring safety. Often, a fire engineered strategy is necessary to provide an alternative method for achieving the required standard while retaining the building’s original features.
Developers need to demonstrate to Building Control that their designs are compliant with building and fire safety regulations. It is therefore advised that a fire engineer is brought into the process as early as possible, to ensure that the appropriate fire safety measures are introduced from the start and that the project runs smoothly.
For example, FDS Consult played a vital role in the refurbishment of the St Clements Hospital, a Grade II listed building in Bow, London. Originally a workhouse in 1848-49, the structure became an infirmary in 1874 and has now been converted for residential use. The latest works included the construction of eight new blocks, creating 252 homes. Due to its listed status, the building’s period details had to be retained, while also ensuring that present-day residential standards were met. To achieve this, Linden Homes appointed FDS Consult to create a comprehensive fire strategy.
When working on a refurbishment of a building, partnering with fire safety consultants will ensure that the design is compliant with guidelines, whilst managing any building specific requirements. By treating each project individually, FDS Consult can recommend the best solution for the project.
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