Given the savings offered by working with an existing superstructure rather than building from scratch, it’s no surprise that refurbishment and change of use projects  are commonplace.

Mechanical Smoke Ventilation PlansThis is especially true in heavily developed areas such as cities and town centres, where available land is at a premium (when it’s available at all), and converting disused commercial or office buildings to residential use can be particularly lucrative.

What’s more, period buildings also have a unique character, which can be very appealing to potential tenants.

However, there are a number of fire safety considerations to be made when undertaking a refurbishment project, especially if a property is being repurposed.

In many cases a change of use will require the installation of additional fire safety systems, as older properties may not have been originally designed with fire safety in mind.

Regardless of the level of changes being made, it is best to involve experts, such as the Fire Design Solutions team, as early as possible in the refurbishment programme. This prevents any delays or increased project costs associated with making last-minute changes to system specification.

When properties are being repurposed it’s common for occupancy levels to also change, requiring the submission of an application to Building Control, as escape routes and building exit widths may need to be altered to allow occupants to safely exit the building in the event of fire.

There are many factors to consider with a change of use project. One of the most obvious is the building occupancy levels, these will change with a conversion to residential. Fortunately, taking an engineered approach to fire safety can keep the amount of changes required to a minimum.

For instance, the FDS team has previously made use of existing service risers as smoke shafts, and utilised windows as Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs) by fitting actuators.

A recent project saw FDS install a mechanical smoke ventilation system – which utilises smoke shafts and powered fans to remove smoke from escape routes –  as part of refurbishment works to a 19th century hotel, without impacting on its period features, showing the unique challenges and considerations involved in working with older properties.

Regardless of the scale of your refurbishment project, FDS’ team of experts is on hand to help you identify the most suitable fire safety systems needed to reach an appropriate level of fire protection.

For more information, contact us by emailing info@firedesignsolutions.com or call +44 (0)1322 387411