Architectural design freedom

Open plan home layouts in line with Building Regulations

When it comes to changing a UK building’s layout, you’ll normally need approval from a Building Control provider such as your Local Authority. Many open-plan layouts can be signed off as-is, but if any habitable rooms of your property are above first floor, fire suppression systems such as Automist become a necessary part of the conversation. Some combinations of rooms don’t pose a problem under the regulations: for example, a living area can incorporate a bedroom, and kitchen-diners are perfectly permissible in themselves. Amalgamating hallways and staircases into living areas is a different matter, however. If any room above first floor has its only escape route pass through another living area, you will usually need fire suppression system.

If, for example, you have a two-storey house with a beautiful open staircase in the ground floor living area. To convert the loft and gain an extra bedroom, you’ll need to fit a sprinkler system downstairs. Similarly, if your second-floor apartment lacks light and you want to regain useless hallway space, you’ll end up with bedrooms that open onto a living area. In this case, you may be required to fit a fire suppression system throughout. Some combinations can be difficult to approve even with a fire suppression system: notably, staircases are in theory not supposed to be open plan to kitchen-diners, although this can sometimes be achieved through some fire engineering.

Ten years ago, retrofitting sprinklers would have been very unusual, but today, easily retrofitted options exist and are installed in thousands of homes every year. Notably, Plumis’s Automist Smartscan can often be fitted in a single day, and enjoys easy approval by any local authority provided that some sensible layout constraints are observed.

Added Value

Living in beautiful and practical spaces may bring emotional well-being, but without the right financial conditions most homeowners can’t consider it: our property represents most of our wealth and our children’s one shot at home ownership and prosperity in the UK. We simply can’t afford to make substantial changes that don’t pay off. So should we be considering open plan?

It turns out that most open plan conversions will add value to a property. Robert Nichols, Managing Director of Portico London Estate Agents, claims a roughly 4% price uplift simply by creating an open-plan kitchen-diner. That may not sound a lot, but let’s take a modest example: a Victorian terraced three-bedroom house in Homerton, London may cost around £800 000, so a 4% increase is worth £32 000 – creating a generous budget for the refurbishment. Even an open plan project that only breaks even is worthwhile: Robert Fraser, managing director of London-based Fraser & Co., says “Open-plan layouts are universally appealing and so this is always going to improve a home’s saleability”. The National Association of Estate Agents agrees: “an open plan kitchen and dining room is becoming a must… a trend that is here to stay”.

Open plan is valuable for three reasons. Firstly, it looks good: impressive open spaces are lighter, tend to be aesthetically more pleasing, and remind us of the homes and imagined lifestyles of the wealthy and successful. Secondly, it’s practical: if you want to host a dinner for ten, one large room is going to work much better than two small reception rooms. Sometimes you just need a larger space. Finally, open plan layouts – especially those that eliminate hallways and corridors – make better use of space and make properties look bigger. And of course, properties that look bigger, look more expensive.

Unsure whether Automist is suitable for your property? Submit your layout for review to an Authorised Installer