Watford Football Club

There is a significant trend towards making better use of sport stadium sites which has led to the development of many football grounds.  At Watford Football Club’s Vicarage Road stadium, Kier has developed a seven-storey key worker residential scheme that wraps around the south stand.  The fire strategy requirements were extremely complex, involving fire design for the new-build residential scheme, a re-design for the stadium and a considered approach to overcoming the interface issues between the two structures.  Moreover, in addition to meeting building regulations and fire office approvals, the proposed solutions also had to satisfy a Fire Safety Advisory Group (FSAG), made up of a building control officer, the police, a fire officer and the stadium’s own management team. Such a complex brief required an expert fire design specialist with an innovative approach and FDS was brought in to assess the requirements and propose practical solutions. The FSAG had some serious concerns about the existing fire strategy for the stadium so FDS ensured that these concerns – such as the excessive power consumption required by fans detailed in the original fire strategy – were all addressed, in addition to re-designing the fire strategy to meet the revised structural requirements of the stadium following the residential development. Previously, the two corners of the south stand where it meets with the east and west stands had been open, allowing a natural ventilation system for the stadium.  However, construction of the residential scheme closed off these areas, compromising the natural ventilation and requiring an innovative, solution-driven approach to designing an alternative.  FDS responded by:

  • Putting a mechanical ventilation system into the concourse to compensate for the loss of natural ventilation
  • Using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modelling to prove the flow rate, thereby proving that the extensive ducting and exhaust fans in the original fire strategy were unnecessary
  • Saving space and reducing costs by taking the large and costly ducting and exhaust fans out of the specification

For the residential element of the stadium, FDS incorporated three smoke shafts with reduced shaft areas, introduced alarm systems for the common areas and extended travel distances by re-positioning the mechanical smoke shaft.  The evacuation requirements for both residents and match day crowds was also an important element of the brief and FDS answered this by:

  • Devising a staged evacuation strategy for the stadium to consider the impact of the residential block on existing procedures
  • Upgrading the level of compartmentation between the residential scheme and the stadium to take into account extended stadium evacuation times
  • Considering and improving access for fire service crews on match days
  • Amending and re-certifying stadium fire alarm systems

Thanks to FDS’s expertise and commitment to excellence the company was able to deliver savings in excess of £1 million and enhance the safety of both the stadium and the residential units.  FDS Consult worked closely with sister company, Fire Design Solutions, to help develop practical solutions for the complex issues involved, value engineering the project by simplifying system designs.  Fire Design Solutions was awarded the contract for supply and installation of the completed fire strategy.

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