Open Plan Education

An increased focus on creating bright, airy, multi-use spaces has led to many contemporary school designs including open plan compartments. While this may be ideal in theory, the creation of these spaces can directly contravene building regulations.

Jigar Pandya, Associate Fire Engineer at FDS Consult UK, tells you all you need to know about the design freedom and compliance that a well thought out fire design strategy can provide:

Open-plan spaces can provide a number of benefits for schools, creating areas for both teaching and socialising while enhancing the learning environment.

Unfortunately, Building Bulletin 100 (BB100) guidance for educational establishments promotes the use of cellular room layouts with limited compartment sizes as a means of containing fire.

However, it’s also true that BB100 acknowledges the limits of this approach, stating that fire engineering “May be the only practical way to achieve a satisfactory standard of fire safety as school building usage becomes ever more flexible in response to the needs of the local community.”

By working with our experienced fire design engineers from the outset of a project, architects and designers can meet the end client’s needs without making design compromises or incurring excessive additional costs. Taking this approach can increase compartment sizes, extend travel distances and maximise space while avoiding the inclusion of unnecessary costly fire systems.

Through the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis, as well as escape time assessments, FDS Consult UK’s engineers can calculate the potential evacuation period required to safely escape from a building, justifying a building’s layout from a fire safety standpoint.

Whilst building code and insurer requirements for the inclusion of sprinkler systems incur installation costs, they can also introduce a number of space-maximising benefits. Building code requirements state that sprinklered compartments can be 2,000m² rather than the standard 800m², with the additional benefit of removing the requirement for compartment walls and floors. In the case of buildings with a top floor height below 5m, fire resistance periods can be reduced from 60 to 30 minutes on the basis of lower evacuation times and ventilation conditions.

By involving fire design engineers from the early stages of a project, rather than using them to ensure compliance later in the build, architects, designers and building owners can see their visions of open-plan spaces realised, while meeting all fire safety standards without additional costs.


More Posts