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April 15, 2009

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Smoke Control Systems – Keep it Simple

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Since the basic objective of all smoke control systems is to keep escape routes clear of smoke, they should not be over engineered. Allan Meek argues for simplicity in design, especially for apartment buildings.

incorporating a smoke control system in the design stage of a building significantly improves safety. Smoke control systems come in many forms but their basic objectives are the same – keeping escape and access routes free of smoke, facilitating firefighting operations by creating a smoke free layer, protecting a building’s contents and reducing structural damage. These systems are increasingly used to protect structures including multi-storey residential and public buildings, underground car parks, shopping centres, warehouses and factories.

In apartment buildings there is a legal requirement to protect the common escape routes to enable residents to escape in the event of a fire, and to assist firefighters needing to enter the building to deal with an incident. Statistics show that there are over 50,000 fires in dwellings in the UK annually and more than 300 fatalities, most of which are caused by the effects of smoke inhalation.

The latest edition of Approved Document B: Fire safety of the Building Regulations (ADB) in England and Wales, which came into effect in April 2007, sets out basic fire safety requirements and provides guidance on satisfying these requirements in the most common building situations. It provides detailed methods of complying with regulations on smoke control in apartment buildings in particular, covering natural ventilation through AOVs (automatically opening vents), natural ventilation through smoke shafts and pressurisation. The relative responsibilities of builders, designers and owners of buildings are set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2006.

Over-engineered?
I have been concerned for some time about the trend in the industry for smoke control systems to be ‘over-engineered’ and in some cases being unnecessarily costly and cumbersome, leading to time delays and budget issues. There is a growing trend towards proposing fire engineered solutions, particularly with mechanical extract, which fall outside the scope of the approved documents and are designed specifically for the building. We believe that such solutions can be useful for complex buildings but are inappropriate for simple apartment buildings, where the additional cost, time and risk entailed in designing a novel system do not justify any relatively minor benefits in terms of space saved.

Furthermore, the proposal of specially engineered solutions puts additional pressure on approving authorities to approve complex systems, when they may not have the expertise to fully understand the details of such designs.

My many years’ experience has taught me that blocks of flats are essentially similar. Whilst fire engineering has a valuable contribution to make in complex buildings, for the average apartment building it doesn’t make sense to use a unique set of criteria for every project. Our organisation has been built around the philosophy of devising simple solutions designed to fit most buildings without bespoke engineering, ensuring compliance with Building Regulations without the need for dispensations or negotiation with approving authorities, thus taking away the risk associated with fire engineered solutions.

Our most popular solution is the natural ventilation option. Compared to a pressurisation system there can be up to a 50% reduction in cost, and it takes less time to specify the system so there are less ongoing maintenance requirements. Our UniVent product has been developed to ventilate common escape routes in buildings. It is a modular system designed to meet 99% of apartment development requirements and has been independently assessed and granted Local Authority Building Control type approval. This ensures compliance with the Building Regulations and a fast track through the building regulation approval procedure is assured.

The system works by detecting smoke, which triggers an automatic lobby ventilator to vent the smoke into the chimney. The vent at the head of the chimney also opens to release the smoke into the atmosphere. We recently installed such a solution at Synergy, a Bellway Homes development at Park 25 on the outskirts of Redhill, Surrey. Thanks to Local Authority Building Control type approval,  the developer faced no delays, and its modular design meant installation could be completed quickly and on schedule.

When thinking about smoke control systems, it is essential to remember the crucial role they play in reducing risk to life and property in the unfortunate event of a fire. Despite their obvious benefits, these systems are too often seen as surplus to requirements and an unnecessary headache in the building design process.
Only when the industry begins to recognise the value of promoting straightforward solutions designed to comply with building regulations, simply and efficiently, can we enhance perceptions of the value and use of smoke control systems both within the construction industry and beyond.

Allan Meek, is managing director of Smoke Control Services, which specialises in smoke control systems for multi-occupancy residential buildings and other applications. www.smokecontrol.co.uk 

RESIDENTIAL GUIDE 

As part of its campaign to encourage simplicity in the sector, Smoke Control Services has produced a guide on the appropriate selection of a smoke control system for multi-storey apartment buildings. It includes a simple flowchart which presents the different generic building types and layouts and leads the user to the most appropriate solution. Copies of A guide to smoke control in residential buildings are available by visiting the company’s website at www.smokecontrol.co.uk

 

residential guide
As part of its campaign to encourage simplicity in the sector, Smoke Control Services has produced a guide on the appropriate selection of a smoke control system for multi-storey apartment buildings. It includes a simple flowchart which presents the different generic building types and layouts and leads the user to the most appropriate solution. Copies of A guide to smoke control in residential buildings are available by visiting the company’s website at www.smokecontrol.co.uk

[

Since the basic objective of all smoke control systems is to keep escape routes clear of smoke, they should not be over engineered. Allan Meek argues for simplicity in design, especially for apartment buildings.

Incorporating a smoke control system in the design stage of a building significantly improves safety. Smoke control systems come in many forms but their basic objectives are the same – keeping escape and access routes free of smoke, facilitating firefighting operations by creating a smoke free layer, protecting a building’s contents and reducing structural damage. These systems are increasingly used to protect structures including multi-storey residential and public buildings, underground car parks, shopping centres, warehouses and factories.

In apartment buildings there is a legal requirement to protect the common escape routes to enable residents to escape in the event of a fire, and to assist firefighters needing to enter the building to deal with an incident. Statistics show that there are over 50,000 fires in dwellings in the UK annually and more than 300 fatalities, most of which are caused by the effects of smoke inhalation.

The latest edition of Approved Document B: Fire safety of the Building Regulations (ADB) in England and Wales, which came into effect in April 2007, sets out basic fire safety requirements and provides guidance on satisfying these requirements in the most common building situations. It provides detailed methods of complying with regulations on smoke control in apartment buildings in particular, covering natural ventilation through AOVs (automatically opening vents), natural ventilation through smoke shafts and pressurisation. The relative responsibilities of builders, designers and owners of buildings are set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2006.

Over-engineered?
I have been concerned for some time about the trend in the industry for smoke control systems to be ‘over-engineered’ and in some cases being unnecessarily costly and cumbersome, leading to time delays and budget issues. There is a growing trend towards proposing fire engineered solutions, particularly with mechanical extract, which fall outside the scope of the approved documents and are designed specifically for the building. We believe that such solutions can be useful for complex buildings but are inappropriate for simple apartment buildings, where the additional cost, time and risk entailed in designing a novel system do not justify any relatively minor benefits in terms of space saved.

Furthermore, the proposal of specially engineered solutions puts additional pressure on approving authorities to approve complex systems, when they may not have the expertise to fully understand the details of such designs.

My many years’ experience has taught me that blocks of flats are essentially similar. Whilst fire engineering has a valuable contribution to make in complex buildings, for the average apartment building it doesn’t make sense to use a unique set of criteria for every project. Our organisation has been built around the philosophy of devising simple solutions designed to fit most buildings without bespoke engineering, ensuring compliance with Building Regulations without the need for dispensations or negotiation with approving authorities, thus taking away the risk associated with fire engineered solutions.

Our most popular solution is the natural ventilation option. Compared to a pressurisation system there can be up to a 50% reduction in cost, and it takes less time to specify the system so there are less ongoing maintenance requirements. Our UniVent product has been developed to ventilate common escape routes in buildings. It is a modular system designed to meet 99% of apartment development requirements and has been independently assessed and granted Local Authority Building Control type approval. This ensures compliance with the Building Regulations and a fast track through the building regulation approval procedure is assured.

The system works by detecting smoke, which triggers an automatic lobby ventilator to vent the smoke into the chimney. The vent at the head of the chimney also opens to release the smoke into the atmosphere. We recently installed such a solution at Synergy, a Bellway Homes development at Park 25 on the outskirts of Redhill, Surrey. Thanks to Local Authority Building Control type approval,  the developer faced no delays, and its modular design meant installation could be completed quickly and on schedule.

When thinking about smoke control systems, it is essential to remember the crucial role they play in reducing risk to life and property in the unfortunate event of a fire. Despite their obvious benefits, these systems are too often seen as surplus to requirements and an unnecessary headache in the building design process.

Only when the industry begins to recognise the value of promoting straightforward solutions designed to comply with building regulations, simply and efficiently, can we enhance perceptions of the value and use of smoke control systems both within the construction industry and beyond.

Allan Meek, is managing director of Smoke Control Services, which specialises in smoke control systems for multi-occupancy residential buildings and other applications. www.smokecontrol.co.uk

RESIDENTIAL GUIDE
As part of its campaign to encourage simplicity in the sector, Smoke Control Services has produced a guide on the appropriate selection of a smoke control system for multi-storey apartment buildings. It includes a simple flowchart which presents the different generic building types and layouts and leads the user to the most appropriate solution. Copies of A guide to smoke control in residential buildings are available by visiting the company’s website at www.smokecontrol.co.uk

 

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