Automist® unlocks better home layouts

Open plan living - Need a fire suppression system?

One of the greatest features of Automist® Smartscan® is the way it opens up multiple layout opportunities for open-plan living. Building regulations are tough on modern open plan projects, especially those that are higher than a two-storey house and that involve stairways or hallways being combined into living areas. The concern is that there would be inadequate fire protection, and it would become difficult, or even impossible, for someone to escape in the event of a fire.

In these instances, building regulations will require you to use a fire suppression system, or face having your plans declined. Automist® is an ideal solution thanks to its automatic firefighting system. At Intelligent Mist, we work alongside Building Control to get your plans approved.

Mouse over the different room combinations (on the right) to find out which combinations you’re allowed and which ones will require Automist®.

image/svg+xml Hallway or staircase Kitchen Bedroom Living or dining area I want to combine...
Open plan living with Automist Smartscan fire suppression
Example of open plan house layout – Photo by Amacher and Associates, Architects

Three-storey open plan houses

In three-storey houses or buildings with three storeys and a basement, you’re generally allowed an open plan staircase on the ground floor, provided you install fire suppression to cover the open plan room. This ground floor room normally can’t include a kitchen, although sometimes Building Control will permit this – or other variations – based on a short report from a fire engineer that covers the fire safety of your property. If you’re simply combining a living room with a staircase, you should be able to use the Automist® ‘Registered Details’ for easy approval with any local authority, provided you meet their standard requirements regarding fire doors and escape windows.

Open plan living with Automist Smartscan fire suppression
Example of open plan apartment layout – Photo by TONIC Design

Open plan flats

In an open plan flat, installing Automist® Smartscan® should allow you an open plan kitchen-diner-living area if you want it, with the bedrooms opening directly onto this open plan area. However, you might be asked for fire suppression throughout the whole flat. This is more expensive than just installing in a single room but has the advantage of easy approval from any local authority in England, Wales or Scotland through the Registered Detail EWS534. If Building Control is prepared to accept a report from a fire engineer, you may in some cases be able to reduce the coverage to just the open plan area.

If your flat is part of a block that’s more than seven storeys high, we recommend you double-check the approvability of your project with your Building Control provider.

In a four-storey house, fire suppression can pay for itself

New or converted four-storey houses (e.g. after a loft conversion) must have two separate escape routes between the upper floors. For example, a house with a ground, first, second and third floor must have two separate staircases between the third and second floors. Houses not able to comply with this requirement must fit a fire suppression system, such as Automist® Smartscan®, throughout.

Is it worth installing a fire suppression system to avoid the extra staircase?

Although the cost of a whole-home Automist® Smartscan® system can be considerable, it’s important to account for the space lost to an additional staircase inside the building. In London, high prices mean that Automist® Smartscan® will often add value to your home compared to the staircase option. It also means you’ll get more room where space is at a premium.

Over two storeys, the space lost to an internal stair is roughly 3.5 to 4.6m(more if you have high ceilings). In London, with prices of £6000/m2, this extra staircase effectively destroys a floor area worth (in 2017) £20,000 to £27,000. Even a large Automist® Smartscan® installation would typically be less expensive than this. Additionally, installing Smartscan® also eliminates any costs in building the secondary staircase with an enclosure and fire doors around it.

If property prices were to rise in future as they did from 2012 to 2017, our example prices could rise by 50% from £6000/m2 to £9000/m2 in five years. The calculation then becomes even starker – an investment of (say) £18,000 in Automist Smartscan today might return £30,000 to £40,000 in gained floor area in future years.

Vehicle access in the event of a fire

Building a new home or an extension more than 45m from the road?

If any part of your building is more than 45 metres from the nearest point that a fire appliance could get to, part B5 of the building regulations will take issue with your project. Luckily, there’s a solution. British Standard BS9991 allows this distance to be increased, possibly as far as 90 metres, as long as a sprinkler system is installed. BS8458, (which post-dates BS9991) indicates that watermist systems can be used for this purpose and outlines the consultation procedure.

What does this mean for me?

If your extension lies partially, or entirely, outside a 45 metre radius from the nearest point on the road, your Building Control Officer will probably require you to install Automist® Smartscan® suppression throughout any affected rooms. The logic will be that the changes to the dwelling must make it no less safe than before.

If any part of a new build lies outside the 45 metre radius, you will need Automist® Smartscan® throughout the building, protecting all the main rooms.

Because there are some differences between the BS9991 and BS8458 regulations on these issues, you should make absolutely sure that any building regulation approvers are agreed on Automist® Smartscan® before proceeding with the project.

Unlock Open Plan Living With Intelligent Mist...

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Want to discuss the specifics of an Automist® installation, including Automist® costs? With hundreds of Automist® systems installed, there's a good chance that we've seen a situation like yours before. We'd be delighted to talk to you. Give us a call, or send project details through our contact form.