A mixed use scheme combining three floors of retail space and four floors of high specification office space, 175 Oxford Street had to be completely re-built as the result of a fire. None of the previous structure was viable and the architect on the re-build scheme had created a striking concept for the new 1,580m2 store. The architect’s vision was to make a feature of natural light, increase retail floor space and add the ‘wow factor’, with a central atrium rising up the building’s full height and as few staircases as possible. It was a vision that had already been enthusiastically accepted by the client but one that needed careful treatment in order to gain fire approval. As a result, FDS Consult was brought in to apply the team’s creative thinking to the scheme’s fire strategy and, thanks to the company’s innovative approach, increased revenue of £3.5 million were achieved.
According to building regulations, as a building taller than eleven metres, 175 Oxford Street required two staircases to provide sufficient means of escape. However, the inclusion of two staircases in the design would have dramatically reduced the available floor space, an extremely valuable commodity in such a prime retail location. The solution from FDS Consult was to incorporate one of the staircases into the atrium itself, effectively creating a staircase with glass walls. The FDS team then suggested that the second staircase providing access to the office accommodation be utilised as the formal fire fighting shaft. Originally, this shaft was proposed for the full height of the building but, in order to maximise retail floor space on the ground floor, FDS consult designed the second staircase to begin at first floor level where it merged with the atrium staircase.
It was a pragmatic approach to combining contemporary design with high levels of safety but at first the fire authorities were not satisfied with the proposals. FDS therefore revisited the scheme and added smoke venting and drenchers to the atrium staircase to reduce temperatures and remove the risk of shattering glass in the event of a fire. As a result, the scheme:
- Successfully achieved fire approval
- Maintained the architect’s vision and the client’s preferred concept
- Increased retail floor space by 30m2
- Achieved increased revenue of approximately £3.5 million