Which professionals can ensure your open-plan home is approved after a loft conversion?
Authorised Automist Installer
Automist is a home fire sprinkler alternative that has enabled thousands of open-plan homes to comply with fire building regulations. It's installed hassle-free from a network of individually authorised installers. You should speak to them early as they will be familiar with the process to get the layouts you want. They can recommend architects, approvers, and structural engineers they have worked with before. Automist is different to other fire suppression systems. It is specifically designed for the home and doesn't require a water main upgrade or tank to retrofit into your home. Each installation concludes with a Feefo review, gathering feedback from real customers, so you can be safe knowing they will do a good job.
Architects with technical specialisations will be able to create highly detailed drawings after measuring the dimensions of your home during a site visit. While preparing these drawings, you will make several crucial decisions, such as determining your ideal budget and what is required by planning and building regulations. You may be required to obtain comprehensive planning permission, submit a pre-application, or benefit from Permitted Development rights. Your building regulation drawings will then be assessed by your local building control or a privately hired approved inspector.
As their name implies, structural engineers are concerned with everything that makes a building stable. They are an integral part of the building regulations process and will collaborate with your architect or their own technicians to generate the equations required for building control approval. Their report will include an examination of the materials, information about the location, the structure's weight, and any necessary structural support. A structural engineer's report is required to receive approval from an approved inspector or your local building control.
There are two ways of demonstrating compliance with the Building Regulations. One is to follow the prescriptive guidance given in codes of practice and Approved Document B and the other is to use a fire engineering approach. A fire engineer can help you present your case as a fire-engineered solution to building control. In most cases, you can have an open-plan staircase on a floor of a three-storey house, as long as you install Automist to cover the open-plan space. This is possible because we have been able to demonstrate with fire engineering research that a three-storey dwelling with an open plan space protected by Automist is safer than one with a protected stairwell (as per Approved Document B). Our research covers the vast majority of UK homes (which have a floor area between 5 – 10.4 m by 2.5 – 5.2 m) and follows the historical precedent of applying performance-based analysis to support deviations from residential fire safety guidance. Automist can achieve this because the fire-affected enclosure would be expected to be less hazardous to escaping occupants (in terms of heat, visibility, and toxicity) than an enclosure not afforded an automatic water fire suppression system (AWFSS). Similarly, the extent of smoke and heat spread both within and beyond the enclosure would be expected to be comparatively less.
Instead of waiting for local building control to approve your project, you can hire a qualified inspector. They will join the initiative early on and can typically secure approval more quickly than their council counterparts. An approved inspector may be an individual or an organisation and must be registered with the Construction Industry Council (CIC), which determines which inspectors are permitted to operate in the United Kingdom. Approval must be renewed every five years, and inspectors must carry liability insurance to protect you and your property from malpractice.
Check out some examples of open-plan homes signed off by building control.