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Four-storey houses must now have two escape stairs, or fire suppression

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.

What constitutes a four-storey house?

A four-storey house is one which has three floors above ground level, and in particular it has two floors that are more than 4.5m above the ground outside. This definition does not pull in three-storey houses that also have a basement, as long as they have escape windows on all but the uppermost floor.

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

So is it worth installing a fire suppression system to avoid the extra staircase? With the new Automist Smartscan Hydra® becoming available in 2018, the cost of a whole-home Automist system has dropped substantially. Nevertheless, when trading off fire suppression against an additional staircase, cost will always be a factor. When making this comparison, 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.

Let’s briefly work through an example. Over two storeys, the space lost to an internal stair is roughly 3.5 to 4.6m2 (more if you have high ceilings). In London, where prices of £6000/m2 are common, this extra staircase effectively destroys a floor area worth (in 2017) £20,000 to £27,000. Even a large Automist Smartscan Hydra® installation would typically be much less expensive than this. Additionally, installing Smartscan® 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) £12,000 in Automist Smartscan today might return £30,000 to £40,000 in gained floor area in future years.

Stretch to Four Storeys ...

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