Automist in open plan loft conversions
Homeowners often carry out refurbishment projects in order to create living spaces which look and feel better. Unfortunately, modern layouts are often at odds with the fire safety requirements of Building Regulations: the guidance encourages either unattractive compartmentation or costly and disruptive sprinkler systems. Automist can be used as a more convenient alternative to sprinklers to meet Building Regulations and is particularly suitable in loft conversions where the ground floor has an open plan layout.
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What does the Building Regulations guidance allow?
Where an open plan stairway currently exists, Approved Document B allows a conversion from a two storey to a three storey house to have an open plan layout on the ground floor (where the staircase passes through the open plan area) as long as four conditions are met:
- The open plan area must be protected by a suppression system - historically, this was normally a sprinkler system
- There must be escape windows at first floor
- The first floor must be separated from ground level by a fire resisting screen and fire door so that the escape windows remain viable
- The kitchen needs to be separated from the open plan area by a 'fire resisting construction' - either a fire door or a wall.
These four conditions are not the law - but they are national guidance, so a project that follows them will pass through Building Control more straightforwardly than one that doesn't. You may be able to depart from the guidance if either you or your building control officer are armed with suitable fire engineering advice. The common question of the necessity of the fire door between ground and first floor is addressed in our FAQ.
Automist and LABC Registered Detail EW171
The Building Regulations guidance, Approved Document B Volume 1, explicitly allows the use of suitably tested sprinkler alternatives like Automist, stating:
"0.18. There are many alternative or innovative fire suppression systems available. Where these are used it is necessary to ensure that such systems have been designed and tested for use in domestic buildings and are fit for their intended purpose."
To ease approval, Automist was registered for an LABC Registered Detail (EW171) for use with open plan layouts in loft converted houses. The Registered Details scheme is intended to allow building control officers to approve a project without a long and detailed investigation, in the knowledge that the product has been rigorously checked by LABC members. For an installation to be EW171 compliant, it must follow the Automist Technical Guide requirements and also include a fire door between ground and first floor.
Automist gives two critical benefits, whilst reducing cost and disruption:
Homeowners can create real value in their homes without aesthetic trade-offs.
Building Control officers can be assured that a modified home is a safe living environment with no limitations on use that may eventually be circumvented by the occupier.
"In an open plan loft conversion, a retrofittable suppression device offers not only comparable costs to dummy walls: it solves the regulatory problem permanently and also provides permanent fire safety to occupants."
Unsure whether Automist is suitable for your property? Submit your layout for review