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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.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Essential facts you need to know about open plan layouts & their building regulations

Open plan living is fast becoming increasingly popular thanks to its ability to offer a greater sense of space and light; both of which have seen a healthy effect to the value of redesigned residential developments in recent years.

Whether you’re looking to create an open plan kitchen/diner, a loft conversion or split-level ground floor, it’s essential you check what building regulations your project will need to pass as these could put a considerable constraint on your much-anticipated designs.

You may require planning permission, particularly if load-bearing walls need to be removed and, if you’re planning a loft conversion, or opening up an enclosed staircase creating an essential fire escape route, you’ll require specialist fire suppression advice from a qualified Fire Engineer.

So, whether you’re a homeowner, landlord, architect or interior designer, we’ve put together a guide to everything you might need to know about making your home open plan.


Types of open plan layouts:

An open plan layout combines one or more rooms into a single, open space, resulting in your project featuring larger rooms with few or no internal dividing walls.

There are three types of open plan layouts: 

o   Type 1 – Combining your kitchen with another habitable room, such as a living or dining room. This type of open plan design does not allow for a fire escape route, and there are no bedrooms leading off from the open planned design area.

o   Type 2 – The staircase or fire escape route has been combined with a habitable room, such as a living or dining area. This type of open planned design allows for the kitchen to remain separate. This type of open planned living often features inside flats where bedrooms are accessed via the living room.

o   Type 3 – A kitchen and possibly other rooms have been designed open plan to incorporate the main escape route from the property. An example of this open planned living is when a main staircase passes through a kitchen/diner.

All open plan layouts must comply with stringent building regulations, even if planning permission isn’t required. It’s always worth remembering that the more open plan the layout, and the higher the property from the ground floor, the greater volume of restrictions there will be.

Types of open plan layout that are permitted:


Building regulations are written in very general terms, but assuming your property has the correct number of fire doors and escape windows at the first floor and below, the following
open planned layouts are permitted:


o   Type 1 open plan layouts will normally always be allowed.

o   In open planned two story houses (or two stories plus a basement) you’ll also be allowed type 2 and 3 layouts. However, on the Isle of Man, you’ll need a fire suppression system.

o   In three story open planned designed houses (or three stories plus basement), a type 2 open planned layout is allowed in England and Wales, providing you fit a fire suppression system in the open area. You don’t normally require this technology on upper stories, but you will require a fire door between the ground and first floor. You may be permitted a type 3 open planned layout, but you’d need a report from a Fire Engineer and, in most cases, an alarm system and other fire safety measures.

o   For open planned designed houses of four stories and above, you’re likely to need a fire suppression system throughout most of your property, or a second fire escape staircase from the upper floors. A type 1 open planned layout will typically be permitted but, as with most three story houses, you’ll require specialist advice from a Fire Engineer.

o   In open planned designed flats, no higher than the first floor, you should be permitted to create type 2 or 3 layouts, though you may have some constraints put on kitchen location.

o   In open planned designed flats above the first floor, you’re permitted to create open plan layouts if you install a fire suppression system, but this guidance is ongoing in development. You may be required to consult a Fire Engineer or a Building Inspector for further advice.

o   In some buildings, it is essential that open plan flats have a lobby or hallway between the front door and the open plan area. This is a key safety feature therefore it’s best to assume it has to stay, though it’s always worth discussing with a Fire Engineer.

If you’re ever unsure whether your project complies with the regulations, a quick call to your local council’s building control team or a private approved inspector, will clarify.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Award-winning design, premium products and a touch of Hollywood in Essen: Red Dot Gala 2016

On 4 July, everyone who was anyone in international design came to Essen, Germany. In spring, a 41-strong jury had awarded the coveted Red Dot label for good design to the most outstanding products of the year. Now it was time to pay tribute to the winning creations and the people who made them. The Red Dot: Best of the Best winners were ceremoniously presented with their trophies on the imposing stage of the Aalto-Theater. Following the presentations, the 1,800 guests enjoyed an evening of dancing and networking at the Designers’ Night in the Red Dot Design Museum in the midst of award-winning innovations.

The award winners of the Red Dot: Best of the Best were honoured on 4 July 2016 in the course of the Red Dot Gala, hosted by Professor Dr. Peter Zec in the Aalto-Theater in Essen. The founder and CEO of Red Dot welcomed distinguished guests on stage, among them Red Dot jury member Kristiina Lassus, automotive design legend Ken Okuyama and Transrapid designer Alexander Neumeister. Dressed in a traditional white tuxedo, the Red Dot president also welcomed the Lord Mayor of Essen, Thomas Kufen, on stage, who immediately invited the award-winners – all international top designers and high-ranking company representatives – to the Essen town hall the next day.

Automist Smartscan by Plumis was awarded in the Product Design Category. The jury said of the fire sprinkler alternative, "An innovative design concept that elevates the principle of fire sprinklers to a new level. The system is defined as an integrated part of the interior and equipped with highly advanced functionality. The topic of fire safety is thus expanded by a pathbreaking novel interpretation. This fire sprinkler system emerged as a design element within a living space, unifying safety with elegance"

Illustrious guests from 39 countries followed the proceedings on stage as the laureates received their trophies. Tremendous applause went, amongst others, to Flavio Manzoni, chief designer at Ferrari, and Sean Carney, chief designer at Philips. Only 79 products were awarded the greatest single distinction, the Red Dot: Best of the Best. The gala was rounded off with a cultural fringe programme that included an appearance by violinist Beatrix Löw-Beer and the Aalto Ballett Essen.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Cost effective sprinkler alternative used to protect Edinburgh apartment

Plumis Automist was used in a loft conversion on the fourth floor of a 19th Century building in a prime, residential area of Edinburgh to comply with building regulations and to provide unobtrusive fire protection. Paulo Gaggero, an Italian Outsource Manager for the contact centre industry who has lived in the city for over 20 years wanted extra space but was disinclined to move. The alternative was to convert his loft but, because there was no fire escape Edinburgh City Council’s Planning Department insisted that he install fire protection measures. Paolo was extremely reluctant to install sprinklers because of the expense and because space was at a premium. Furthermore, the fact that his apartment is on the upper floors of the block means that water damage caused by the discharge of copious amounts of water could cause considerable harm to the lower floors of the building.


He researched fire suppression on the internet and discovered Automist from Plumis, a simple, retrofit, alternative to sprinklers for full room active fire protection. Automist works by using a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist. 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. Paolo identified Blue Light Safety Ltd, an independent fire safety company offering a total solutions service for every aspect of fire safety and called in Daniel Smith MIFSM MIFPO, Commercial Director who founded Blue Light in early 2012 to advise. Daniel recommended the installation of 2 Automist pumps and 3 heads covering the hallway upstairs, the stairs leading to the hallway downstairs and the original hallway leading to the landing meaning that there was coverage of all the escape routes. Other rooms were protected by fire doors.


Paulo Gaggerro was delighted with Automist. “Automist looks like a piece of art and I am thrilled with my discovery. My property has increased considerably in value thanks in part to this innovative piece of equipment.”

London interior designers use Plumis Automist to enable modern design

Plumis Automist was used at a north London property to provide a cost effective and appropriate fire protection solution, which was acceptable to the clients of Living-in Space, an interior design company based in Belsize Park, London. The clients did not want a door separating the kitchen on the lower ground floor from the open plan staircase. Q&A Builders added an additional floor to the terraced house with a loft conversion and due to the height of the proposed building, Building Regulations stipulated that there should be separation or that a sprinkler system should be installed. Angelique Tracey, Senior Interior Designer who was overseeing the project was very reluctant to compromise the design and layout of the conversion by installing a protected escape route or risk the drenching of high quality fixtures and fittings in the event of a discharge by sprinklers. She spoke to Steve Moore from Salus, the private building inspectors who suggested they investigate Plumis Automist, a water mist system which is a very cost-effective alternative to sprinklers. Automist has the added advantage of eliminating the need for a water storage tank. The client had coincidentally studied at the Royal Academy of Arts with the inventors of the innovative system, so was very keen to explore this option and utilise the technology.

Open plan kitchen in London
Automist works by using a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles mounted under a standard tap, stand alone on a work top or even a wall and provides residential fire life protection. It integrates seamlessly into high-specification designs and opens up opportunities offering significant design flexibility.

Open plan kitchen diner in London

Vapourmist, the local accredited installer fitted Automist in the ceiling of the open plan area on the lower ground floor in a matter of a couple of hours meaning that there was no delay in the building project.

Angelique was delighted with her discovery. “The system enabled us to achieve the desired open plan design at a reasonable cost and without compromising fire safety. I would definitely use Automist in future design projects where ease of installation and aesthetic considerations are paramount.”

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Open-plan kitchen flat design enabled by fire engineering

In the latest BS 9991:2015 guidance on open plan flats, requires the provision of a suppression system within the flat. However, the overall maximum size of an open plan flat before the kitchen also needs to be enclosed is 8m by 4m. The implication of this reduction in flat size is any open plan flats larger than this size, would now need the kitchen to be separated from the rest of the flat with 30 minutes construction and an FD30S fire door.

This recommendation seems to go against the desire of flat owners who want an open plan arrangement for the communal areas within their flats. A significant number of the open plan flats that will be built in the future will exceed 8m x 4m. Therefore, this new guidance will affect a large number of open plan flats by forcing the kitchen to be enclosed in fire rated construction. However, there is an alternative.

The Alternative!


BS 9991 is a guidance document showing only one way of achieving the functional requirements of the Building Regulations. An alternative fire engineered approach can be developed which allows the kitchen to be completely open whilst still meeting the functional requirements of the Building Regulations.

The acceptability of having the kitchen area open in a flat with dimensions over 8m x 4m can be demonstrated through using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling.

This is one example of were a fire engineered approach can be used to meet the functional requirements of the Building Regulations. This is an acceptable alternative to following prescriptive guidance which would constrain the design.

Content provided by James Brady of Innovation Fire

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Plumis Automist used to safeguard ‘Britain’s finest 20th Century folly’

Plumis Automist, the innovative water mist fire suppression system, was used to protect a unique 100 foot tower known as Faringdon Folly Tower, in a circular woodland in rural Oxfordshire. Faringdon Folly, built in 1935 by an eccentric nobleman was the last major folly to be built in England and is hailed as ‘Britain’s finest 20th Century folly’ and as ‘one of the most important follies in Britain’.

 "There are many single points of view, which equal, or perhaps surpass, that to be seen from this place, but when a circuit is made of its summit, and new beauties are found at every step, it cannot fail to be pronounced the finest circular view in the kingdom," Extract from Pigot & Co's Directory of 1824 on Faringdon’s Folly

There are 154 steps which lead to the 2 rooms at the top from where the roof is reached and there is no other access or exit and certainly no fire escape. As it is used for private functions like parties and naming ceremonies and is open to the public twice a month, Oxfordshire Fire Service recommended that fire suppression measures were taken and suggested it be installed in the entrance hall where the electrics are housed in a cupboard under the staircase. The Trustee, Eddie Williams believed that sprinklers were unattractive due to the need for pipes to be installed across the ceiling. He searched the internet for an alternative and was impressed by Plumis Automist which is a simple, retrofit, alternative to sprinklers for full room active fire protection. It works by using a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist and is activated utilising a heat detector as recommended in Approved Document B, effectively eliminating nuisance alarms. 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. This was particularly crucial for a building which is open to the public and where access is so restricted. Automist is designed to limit fire growth and minimise exposure to toxic gases and heat making evacuation easier in an emergency and providing precious extra time for the unconscious and immobile, as well as sounding an alarm.


Automist was installed in a matter of hours with no disruption to the day to day running of the Folly and Eddie Williams would recommend Automist to others. “We take the safety of our public very seriously but, at the same time, didn’t want to compromise the historic nature or aesthetic value of the Folly so when we discovered Automist it solved many problems. We would definitely recommend it to others in the tourism businesses where visitor safety is paramount.”

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Plumis Automist adds considerable value to Windsor apartments

Plumis Automist has been used to provide an innovative fire safety solution for the conversion of offices to residential use. Bentley Apartments are in a stunning location next to Windsor Castle on Victoria Street. The 2 apartments both have an open staircase with glass balustrade leading down to an open plan basement living room/dining room/study and kitchen. There was no separate lobby to protect the escape route.


ABA Group Ltd were aware that Twickenham Borough Building Control officers would object to the layout unless a means could be found to provide fire protection but they were very anxious that the solution did not compromise the high-specification design of the apartments. They discovered Automist whilst searching for a solution online and called in Bracknell-based Vapourmist, the accredited installers for the system who readily specified an Automist unit to provide complete protection from the risk of fire throughout the apartments.

Automist gave ABA Group a number of active fire protection options to protect the escape routes and aid evacuation for a fraction of the cost of a traditional sprinkler system. Patrick Amos, ABA’s Director was pleased with Vapourmist’s recommendation. “Automist gave us complete design flexibility and was simple to install as it could be connected to the domestic water supply. Because it requires much less water than traditional sprinklers, there are great practical advantages in the event of a fire because run off would be minimised and the high-specification fixtures and fittings would not be in danger of being drenched as would be the case with sprinklers. We will definitely consider the use of Automist in similar designs in the future.”