Inside Fire: Residential Fire Safety Systems

Michel Wizenberg, Managing Director at FDS Consult UK gives you the inside track on smoke ventilation and sprinkler systems for residential fire safety.

“There are many fire alarm and detection systems available in today’s marketplace for residential applications, so it can sometimes be difficult to select an appropriate system that accurately supports the buildings means of escape strategy.

Take a block of residential flats, for example. Typically these benefit from stand alone systems so that individual flats can be evacuated whilst everybody else remains in place, whereas offices generally require the fire alarm system to commence a simultaneous evacuation of the entire building. Mixed use buildings, such as those comprised of a hotel, offices and apartment, tend to need a middle ground for obvious reasons. You wouldn’t want to have to evacuate all of the residents in the flats every time a hotel guest triggered the fire alarm.

For these reasons you need to address how you want the system to work, taking into consideration the building’s purpose and the evacuation only of those who could be affected by the fire, which also reduces the onus on the management personnel. Let’s take a look at some of the systems that can be designed into your next residential project to meet fire safety standards, ease the burden on building and facilities managers whilst safeguarding residents and their property.

Firstly smoke clearance systems, which are available in natural and mechanical formats, can be specified in some cases. While mechanical kits offer space savings and can be cost neutral, it is important to bear in mind they do need to be routinely maintained, which can add to the responsibilities of building management. However, failure to maintain either one of these systems can result in the fire brigade issuing a notice under the Regulatory Reform Order, and ultimately, a closure of the building until these systems are up to required operating standard – so it’s a worthwhile investment of time.

Sprinklers are mandatory in residential buildings over 30 meters in height and also in dwelling homes where there is a ground floor plus three or more additional storeys. The need for these can be avoided by installing a secondary staircase, although the relative low costs of modern day sprinkler systems mean this option is rarely chosen.

Furthermore, today’s sprinkler systems can be designed and installed to work with a building’s main cold water supply, eliminating the need for a full stand alone system with added water tanks, pumps and pipework, again saving space and construction costs.

Fire design engineers should not just be employed to ensure a building complies with regulation. They should be employed to add value to a project. Remember, the earlier fire design consultants get involved, the more benefits they can bring to a project, from designing systems and alternative layouts, through to liaising with all of the necessary approval bodies.”


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