fire safety strategies

Building regulations were introduced seriously in the UK following the great fire of London (1666), and applied mainly to the building of private dwellings, so after three and a half centuries one would expect that we would be living in dwellings which protected us from fire. WRONG.

We are dying by the hundred every year, partly due to our own carelessness and ignorance of fire, but also partly (in our opinion) due to the failings of building regulations guidance.

The ethos is that there should always be an alternative escape route in case of fire. Good idea? Of course it is, but this places rigid constraints on the design of dwellings (and other buildings) especially where there are more than two floors above ground level, and even more so in high rise situations.

In the case of dwellings, 'escape' windows are acceptable where the floor level does not exceed 4.5m. The idea is that people can climb out of the window, lower themselves to full arms length and drop, at which height it is unlikely to cause severe injury (providing you avoid the spiked railings!).

This is all very well for the able bodied (providing the window isn't locked), but what about the elderly, very young or infirm etc etc.

Once above 4.5m, escape routes must be protected by fire resisting construction, which used to mean fire doors needed self closing devices to ensure the door remained effective, however in April 2007 the government removed the requirement for self closers on fire doors in dwellings. This was largely due to the fact that in a large proportion of instances, occupiers removed them as soon as the ink on the completion certificate was dry!

In fact, fire resisting construction often fails due to poor construction or wear and tear, alterations or the installation of services through compartment walls that are not fire stopped afterwards.

There has to be a better way, and there is: Sprinklers, but until building regulations change to enforce the installation of sprinklers (especially in high risk dwellings such as HMO's) the death toll will largely continue. They are compulsory in buildings over 30m high, WHY? Because they are effective! Congratulations to the Welsh Assemble, who have realised the benefits of domestic sprinklers and legislated that all new dwellings must be fitted with them.

Until then we are restricted in the design of our homes (and other buildings), but there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Marsden Fire Safety can often provide fire engineered solutions or fire strategies to overcome such design restrictions, and has been successful in obtaining building regulations approval for many projects involving:

  • extended travel distances

  • open plan design

  • single staircase escape routes

  • etc

Most solutions involve the use of domestic or residential sprinklers, along with increased smoke detection and smoke control measures.

Fire engineered solutions are tailored to each individual scheme, and incorporate control measures for ensuring, as far as possible, ongoing maintenance of components to ensure the strategy remains effective for the life of the building.

We work closely with an approved sprinkler installer, who designs and installs sprinkler systems to achieve a finished product which is usually welcomed and approved by local authority building control officers and private sector approved inspectors. They have designed some very innovative systems such as grey water schemes and their patented 'Greenflow' system that is virtually self maintaining.

Fire service access requirements often cause rejection of town and country planning applications to build or convert dwellings in remote areas. These problems too can often be overcome by fire strategies incorporating the installation of sprinklers.

If you have a building regulations or planning problem, Marsden Fire Safety can usually help.

Contact us now for help on planning and building regulations issues:


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