Based in central London, Queen Mary University of London has grown considerably over the years, creating a need for the expansion and refurbishment of its facilities.
The university’s design team appointed FDS Consult three times over a four year period to provide an appropriate fire strategy at each stage of the works.
Initially brought on board in 2010 when refurbishment of the Academic Registry and Council Secretariat (ARCS) took place, FDS Consult called upon its extensive experience of university and refurbishment projects, creating a fire safety overview which included requirements for fire alarm systems, exit width sizes and the necessary fire resistance for various rooms.
In the following years the university wished to alter its Student Centre and Mile End campus buildings in order to produce more flexible learning and social spaces, while reducing initial design costs by removing the need for compartmentation.
As this would increase the properties’ total occupancy, a number of complications arose, with the existing exit widths proving insufficient to allow the safe escape of individuals in the event of fire.
For instance, in the case of the university’s School of Law, the staircases were of an acceptable width to allow safe egress. However, this then narrowed from a 1300mm to an 800mm exit, before narrowing further to a 760mm external route.
As extending the exits would require significant external works and investment in additional land, FDS Consult was enlisted to justify the layout of the existing structure. This was done by carrying out means of escape calculations based on occupancy flow-rate analysis, proving that students would be able to evacuate without further measures being taken, thus greatly reducing total project costs.
Further cost savings were introduced during the refurbishment of the university’s Student Centre. By proving that the property’s bookshop was, in effect, ancillary to the area’s main space, FDS Consult was able to justify the removal of a one-hour compartment wall between the zones, reducing spending on the works. As the two areas were provided with independent means of escape, even if one of the areas was closed while the other remained in use there was no life safety issue.
As the buildings’ occupants are all over 18 years of age, Building Bulletin 100 guidance did not have to be followed, therefore the design was created to comply with Approved Document B.
Michel Wizenberg, Managing Director at FDS Consult added: “Through the use of occupancy flow-rate analysis, our experts were able to provide the most suitable means of escape for Queen Mary University of London during its ongoing evolution. By taking a tailored fire engineered approach we were able to justify a number of space and cost-saving measures that eliminated expensive design adjustments.”