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Welcome to the Plumis fire protection blog. Stay informed about domestic fire safety, fire building regulations and ADB-compliant solutions for open plan living. Please feel free to browse through the posts and comment about what you read.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Plumis Automist facilitates flat conversion in London

Automist from Plumis, an LABC Registered and cost effective alternative to sprinkler systems was recently used in the conversion of a ground floor flat in Crouch End, Haringey, London into two separate flats, one of which incorporated a 27m long basement space. Building Control officers insisted that, in order to meet fire regulations, a fire suppression system like Automist that offers full room, active fire suppression should be used. The alternative would have been to install staircases in the light wells as a means of escape in the event of a fire. Mr S. Perkins, the owner of the property was reluctant to do this. “This was because it would have meant substantially enlarging the light well space, thereby reducing the internal space. And this would have seriously compromised the aesthetic of the project.”


The traditional alternative was to install sprinklers but, for this, additional building works would have been necessary in the already completed flats. Furthermore, a discharge would have drenched the new fixtures and fittings as well as the recently refurbished fabric of the property. Mr Perkins searched for a solution and visited the Plumis website where he familiarised himself with the Automist product, which uses a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles mounted under a standard tap, on a worktop or unobtrusively mounted on a wall. It is designed to limit fire growth and minimise exposure to toxic gases and heat, making escape safer in an emergency. He was referred to Fire Fend Installations, a London and South East-based accredited Automist installer who he duly contacted with his architect’s plans. Karen Cowling, Fire Fend’s General Manager dealt with the enquiry promptly and advised him that 3 fixed heads and 2 pumps would provide adequate protection, which, was approved by the private Building Control Officer. Mr Perkins was delighted with the solution. “We were in a position to install quickly and we were able to complete the process and commission the system within a relatively short time. Fire Fend made sure that the various elements were delivered to site when we needed them and we found the process pretty painless!”

Mr Perkins was fully satisfied with the completion of his project and would certainly consider using Plumis Automist and Fire Fend Installations for any future projects of this type.

Plumis Automist Smartscan provides alternative to enclosed lobby in Hitchin loft conversion

A Plumis Automist Smartscan system was installed recently in a loft conversion in Hitchin, Hertfordshire in order to facilitate the retention of the open plan living space. For this kind of contemporary, open space design Building Regulations demand that a protected enclosed stairwell is provided or they require the use of alternative compensatory measures such as sprinklers.

The property owner, Matt Newis was reluctant to install sprinklers because of the potential water damage to his home should the sprinklers be activated. He was recommended to consider the Plumis device and did some research on the internet. He was fully satisfied that it would fulfil his requirements as a more usable alternative to sprinklers, so he contacted his local approved Automist installer, Creative In/Exteriors Ltd. LABC registered Automist Smartscan is a modern alternative to a fire sprinkler system. Instead of the typical ceiling-mounted sprinkler head, this device consists of a wall mounted stainless steel panel that seamlessly integrates into the interior of almost any living space. As soon as the system is activated, the head of the unit rotates automatically to directly target fires with a powerful jet of water mist. This has been proven to achieve the same performance as the more familiar sprinkler systems. However, because this approach uses 90% less water there is significantly less water damage to the living space in the event of a discharge.


Automist also has the advantage of fitting unobtrusively into modern decors. In this case, the pump was located under the stairs and the spray-head on the staircase wall. A Kidde KF30 heat alarm complete with SMK23RU relay was installed and connected to the pump. The heat alarm was mains powered from an existing consumer unit, on a separate RCBO. This is effectively the trigger for the pump to activate. All plumbing work, electrical work and making good was completed by Creative In/Exteriors Ltd. The pump is connected to the existing consumer unit using FP200 cable and runs on a separate RCBO.

Mr Newis was pleased that Automist helped avoid the need to create an enclosed lobby to the exit from the bottom of the stairs, which exited at ground floor level into an open plan dining room and helped retain the open plan nature of the living space. He would most definitely use the Automist system again and indeed would recommend it to others.


Plumis Automist facilitates open plan design in terraced property

Plumis Automist has been used to provide an innovative, best value fire protection solution in a loft conversion in a terraced property in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire. Creative In/Exteriors, the local accredited Automist installers, installed the system to facilitate a contemporary open plan design whilst at the same time complying with Building Regulations. The means of escape was on the ground floor onto an open plan kitchen and dining room and as a compensatory alternative Building Regulations required an active fire suppression system such as sprinklers. The property owner was disinclined to do this because of budget considerations and the danger of accidental discharge which could seriously affect the fabric of the property and the fixtures and fittings. A suggested alternative was to create an enclosed lobby using a fire door but, equally, Mr Evans was reluctant to compromise the open plan design. A third option was to reconfigure the staircase but this would have proved expensive and intrusive.


Builders, Berkamstead Loft Conversions suggested Automist as an innovative and unobtrusive solution. It only uses 10% of the water required for a conventional sprinkler system and fitted seamlessly into this project. Furthermore, it delivers rapid and automatic fire suppression. The installation is neat and economical reducing the need for costly pipework and the disruption associated with a traditional sprinkler system.

Mr Evans was pleased with the fact that Automist enabled him to maintain the desired design of his property. He would definitely use the Automist system again and would recommend it to others with similar requirements.

Plumis Automist used to protect a Grade II listed Gatehouse

Plumis Automist was used to comply with building regulations and to provide unobtrusive fire protection in the Grade II listed Gatehouse Lodge, near Grantham in the Lincolnshire Vales. The Lodge had been rescued recently from dereliction and has been sensitively restored with a mix of original and contemporary features. The system was installed in the kitchen area to the front of the property because the escape route from the 1st floor came down into this small room, meaning that it was not protected as required in Approved Document B


The owners were reluctant to have sprinklers fitted because of the damage to the fabric of the period property and to the new fixtures and fittings the release of water would cause if they were activated. They had looked at the Plumis website and assessed that Automist would perfectly suit their requirements. Newflame Ltd of Peterborough is the Accredited Automist Installer for the region and Richard Scotcher recommended a wall mounted spray-head. 


Automist is a pre-engineered water mist system and uses a high-pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles. The innovative device uses significantly less water than a sprinkler system, minimising water damage and limiting run-off.  It provides residential fire life protection and can also be mounted stand-alone on a work top or under a tap. It is a simple, retrofit, alternative to sprinklers for full room active fire protection. The device automatically and reliably detects and suppresses incipient fires before they can take hold and cause devastating damage and potential injury or loss of life. The system is activated utilising a heat detector as recommended in Approved Document B, effectively eliminating nuisance alarms. It fits seamlessly into any décor, which was a distinct advantage for this project where the interior decoration was such a crucial part of the character of the Lodge.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Plumis Automist provides fire safety solution for open plan living in converted flats

Newflame Fire Equipment Co. Ltd has provided Plumis Automist systems as an innovative watermist fire sprinkler for a block of 7 flats above Baldock library, which had been converted from office space in the Hertfordshire town. The modern, open-plan design of the living areas of 6 of the flats meant that there was no protected means of escape. The LACoRS guide and Approved Document B allow open plan designs as long as some additional features, including fire suppression, are provided. The owner of the building was reluctant to install sprinklers which would have marred the clean lines of the design and in the event of discharge, accidental or otherwise would have drenched the property, the new fixtures and fittings.


The owner, whose extended family are using 4 of the flats while the 3 remaining flats are being rented out, discovered the Plumis website when searching for a resolution and sent the plans of the conversion to Newflame, the accredited Automist installer for the area. He was delighted to find that the Automist system would protect the building at a reasonable price, with much less disruption and in a considerably shorter timeframe than fitting sprinklers, which meant that the conversion could progress speedily. Automist also has the benefit of using only 5.5 litres of water per minute per head in a fine water mist compared with 60 litres per head generated by sprinklers. Because Automist uses a wireless system, installation was brief, it did not affect the fabric of the property and there were no ugly wires to mar the new decor. It is aesthetically pleasing and, unlike smoke alarms not only alerts occupants to an incipient fire but also suppresses it.


Richard Scotcher of Newflame is a keen advocate of Automist. “Building and housing regulations have traditionally encouraged the creation of fire resistant compartments in homes so as to limit the spread of fire. Our client found this solution highly frustrating as he wanted an open, light design for the flats in Baldock. We have no hesitation in recommending Automist as a much superior alternative to traditional fire safety measures.”

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Reimagining the Fire Sprinkler for the Connected Smart Home

There are few concerns for families that top the utter disastrous and devastating consequences that can result from the family home being fire damaged.

Fires not only leave shattered memories of fear and angst inside the very place homeowners should feel safe, but the damage left by fire and the means used to extinguish will last a lifetime.

Material objects can of course be replaced, but it’s rarely the same, is it?

More often than not, the only memories left are those of singed furniture and saturated belongings. Plumis want to change this.

The Automist Smartscan

There has been heavy public sector investment in fire awareness education over the years, but it still represents a deadly - and costly - menace to homes and businesses everywhere.

Mandatory legalisation has improved fire sprinkler adoption but traditional sprinklers can be very expensive to retrofit, particularly in areas where water supply is limited.

The vast majority of incidents still occur in the home - prompting Plumis, the award-winning manufacturer of high-tech fire safety devices, to review the technologies that exist to prevent them. Commercial properties throughout the world, are ahead of the fire suppression game and Plumis considered how this level of safety and insurance could be enjoyed by people and their families in every home setting.

In response, Plumis has devised Automist Smartscan. This revolutionary device is already leading the way in how fires, can be addressed more effectively, more efficiently and leaving less damage than was possible before.


How does the Automist Smartscan work?

Once activated in response to the onset of a growing blaze, its scanning technology seeks out the fire with Automist’s unique pivoting sensor and water-misting nozzle arrangement. Once the source of the fire is established, a powerful and targeted spray of water mist is directed, suppressing it rapidly.

A revolutionary concept in comparison to the too-often-used old-fashioned sprinkler systems which simply 'dump' water sprays into the entire room – which can sometimes cause more damage than the original fire itself.


The key features of the Automist Smartscan

Installed into any setting with ease.

The Automist Smartscan can easily be retrofitted into the home with minimal disruption. And although the system is discreet, it genuinely looks great. The attractive design is likely to catch a homeowner’s eye for all of the right reasons - prompting regular checks and the minimum in safety appliance maintenance.

Intelligently deployed watermist 

The Automist Smartscan can be easily housed on most internal walls enabling its water mist jets to be directed straight on to the source of the fire, rather than flowing down indiscriminately from the ceiling.

The design of the spray pattern retains the blinding, toxic smoke within the upper layer of the room to aid and improve the chance of escape for any people inside. Its wall mount position also optimises the trajectory of the targeted water mist, ensuring that the water doesn't evaporate in the smoky hot layer that rises above a fire but instead is focused where it is needed most.

Unobtrusive

The technology may be smart but the design is just as clever! The fire sensing nozzle head tucks away discreetly into its wall-based housing, and the aesthetic is clean, slick and decidedly modern; designed to please interior-conscious homeowners while allowing for serious fire safety measures.


Tested to the highest standards

The Automist Smartscan is tested to some of the highest international domestic standards, so you can be sure that you are trusting your home to a reliable, quality product. Numerous units have been installed in and around the UK.

Digital integration

The device is also future-proofed to be linked up with a domestic smart home devices such as the Nest thermostat. It can even send alerts to the homeowner's smartphone to alert them if a fire occurs or if the system needs critical maintenance. A product like this can prove invaluable in any insurance claim.

The Automist Smartscan is already the go-to fire suppression technology on the market today!

Whether you are a homeowner, landlord, property developer or insurance company, Automist Smartscan is a product that must be considered for your property. In 2016, global technology research and advisory company Technavio identified water mist and smart systems in the residential setting as emerging trends that had the potential to significantly impact the fire suppression market.  It singled out Automist Smartscan as being at the vanguard of that wave.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Fire (over)engineering my pad?

Open plan layouts as an architectural trend is here, either in homes or flats, there is no denying that the increased feel of space and the ability to maximise the use of small footprint properties make it a win-win for architects and occupants.


The reason this was not a default setup in the past is because it went against the prescriptive guidance.  So what has changed? The adoption of fire engineering principles in the guidance documents that are issued for the industry such as Approved Document B and BS 9991.  These documents used to be compartmentation heavy, i.e. they would rely only on passive fire protection measures such as walls, fire doors and door closers to ensure a fire would develop only within a room, leaving the escape route free for occupants. This required a “protected corridor” to be designed through the property where escape could take place.  And as a consequence your open plan dream went out of the window.  The increased use of sprinklers, water mist, enhanced (linked) detection and alarm and automatic opening vents are all fire engineering tools that have been commonly applied to larger commercial building and are slowly finding their way to homes.  This trend will only increase because technology is progressively getting cheaper; there is increased value to be added to a property by applying them and the emergence of “smart homes”, liking smart products.  With increased demand comes an increase in innovation within the industry to help architects deliver contemporary, open plan solutions whilst complying with  the requirements of the building regulations (safe escape from a fire) without necessarily using doors and walls (fake or real).

Plumis’s Automist Smartscan is part of this wave of  innovation, a discreet fire suppression appliance designed for use in homes. The system activates when fire temperatures are detected, using a fine water mist to restore survivable conditions while occupants escape.  The innovation is in the placement of the spray head (at light switch height) and the targeting of mist (to only where the fire is) resulting in a very effective and efficient solution with only a tenth of the required flow of a sprinkler and much less installation effort.



With great power comes great responsibility

At Plumis we come across a large number of projects being proposed for building control approval which propose the use of suppression to compensate for the removal of walls in refurbishments and new build.  However, one of the things that continues to surprise  us is the poor interpretation of the intended use of suppression, whether a sprinkler or water mist.

To “protect the means of escape” simply means ensuring that even with removal of doors and walls, survivable conditions are kept between any room in the property and the escape route.  If a kitchen is accessed from the stairs that leads to the first floor with no passive separation (door or wall), then the kitchen needs suppression. If there is a study with a non-fire rated door also accessed by that route then yes, it also needs suppression.  To our surprise a frequent interpretation by architects and BCOs alike has been to put suppression on the stairs only.  That will not only do nothing to suppress the fire raging in the kitchen from a failed flambé dessert, it will also make people slip down the stairs which has nothing to burn (and therefore to be suppressed) in the first place. The first image that comes to mind is a scene of “Three Stooges in flambé dessert in my open plan mansion” or a typical HSE poster showing everything that can go wrong in a construction site.  Yet, it is a common and simple  form of miss-interpreting “protecting the means of escape”.

The cause of this  misinterpretation is the increased availability of fire engineering solutions but limited use of fire engineers.  This is either because it is assumed one is not needed or not affordable.  There is an incorrect perception that fire engineers will only work on large commercial buildings and because of that they are too expensive.  They are the best suited to interpret the needs and to utilise suppression or any other solutions in the best way to meet building regulations.


Plumis does their role in explaining the fire engineering principles for the application of Automist in its training, specification manuals (download one free), our CPDs (book one free) and in this article so that a propped fire door is not replaced by a poorly specified system.  Additionally, since architects have been given the freedom to service the demand for open plan designs by proposing creative solutions, some of the proposals we see do not result in an obvious suppression specification plan and as a consequence further measures may be required.  This is clearly fire engineering territory and it is precisely what Plumis recommends to the leads of “creative” projects and on our website,  where there are lists of fire engineers that are acquainted with our products’ performance and who will where appropriate include Automist as an active component in an overall fire strategy for specific projects.  Have no fear, if you have a non-standard layout, contact a fire engineer for a “Best Value” solution, which is suitable and sufficient for your project. It’s likely to be less expensive than you think and will deliver excellent value, in terms of reassurance and life safety!