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New study offers alternative approach to open-plan fire safety

FIA is a non-profit trade association with the aim of promoting the professional status of the UK fire safety industry
A level of safety can be achieved by installing LD1 detection and combining it with a sprinkler system
The NHBC study recognises that by installing detection to the LD1 fire alarm system category (BS 5839-6) and combining this with a sprinkler system, a level of safety can be achieved that is at least as good as a similar Approved Document B design.

Some 80% of all fire deaths in the UK occur in dwellings - some 450 to 500 deaths a year.  In dwellings where there is no fully functioning smoke detector fitted, the fatality rate is three times higher than in those with detection.  Approved Document B of the Building Regulations (2000) Fire Safety, effectively requires the installation of automatic smoke detectors in new dwellings.

Given that the focus in dwellings is usually on the protection of life (L), it is the LD1, LD2 and LD3 grades which are primarily adopted in domestic applications (PD1 and PD2) where there is more of a property protection bias).  LD1 is "A system installed throughout the dwelling incorporating detectors in all circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling, and in all rooms and areas in which fire might start, other than toilets, bathrooms and shower rooms."

This new study demonstrates that in the case of open-plan flats, by combining LD1 detection with sprinklers, the NHBC Foundation concludes that the fire safety levels required by Approved Document B can be effectively replicated.

Graham Ellicott, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), comments - "Having guidelines and standards for products and systems which are designed to protect life is obviously vital.  In the case of open-plan flats, this has been somewhat of a grey area, with building control officers not really having any dedicated research on which to base their approvals process and fire safety engineers not having sufficient guidance in how to accommodate an open -plan design.  This study uses case studies to evaluate fire safety in actual open-plan flat applications and, as such, is an invaluable addition to the knowledge base.  We have always argued for a risk assessment which takes into account all of the risks and this report certainly follows that philosophy, citing a number of factors to consider in a fire engineered solution, including detection, suppression, fire growth, smoke movement and the all important human behaviour element of the equation.  If an LD1 detection and sprinkler approach can achieve the safety of an Approved Document B compliant design, then this offers designers of fire safety systems greater flexibility in helping to reduce death and injury from fire in the home."

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