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What are the main applications for Automist?

Automist conforms to BS 8458:2015. There are three main applications for Automist, to help buildings meet building regulations, address a fire risk assessment action, or as an elective fire safety upgrade. 

1) Meeting building regulations

Automist is commonly used as a direct replacement for traditional sprinklers (BS 9251). There is a legal requirement to install fire sprinklers (or an equivalent Automatic Water Fire Suppression System (AWFSS)) into all new houses, flats, apartments and other types of accommodation that stand above 11 metres tall throughout the UK, and all new homes regardless of height in Wales. Care homes, registered group homes and sheltered housing also require suppression. It can also be a useful fire-engineered solution for meeting the fire safety requirements in airspace or rooftop developments taking the buildings over 11m, where it may require a retrofit of fire suppression to existing flats.

Example applications for Automist

Automist can be used to contain the fire within the room of origin and also to provide a 'compensatory measure' when other building features do not meet one of the functional building requirements, as explained in 4.2 of BS 9991.

‘Automatic water fire suppression system (AWFSS) The installation of an AWFSS can offer designers considerable flexibility. An AWFSS controls a fire to a small size, reducing the production of smoke and toxic gases and preventing the fire from spreading beyond the room or dwelling of origin. This means that there can be flexibility achieved in the design of the building.’

It is commonly used for permitted variations:

  • 6.5.2. Loft conversions 
    Open plan arrangements on the ground floor are permissible should AWFSS be installed throughout, in conjunction with a fire-resisting partition and door at first-floor level.
  • Multi-basement buildings 
    For dwellings with multiple floors below ground level, a protected stairway and an AWFSS, 9m metres should not be exceeded from the foot of the protected stair to any habitable room.
  • 6.3(c) Dwelling houses with one or more storeys greater than 4.5m in height (three storeys) 
    Open plan arrangements on the ground floor can be achieved on the condition that AWFSS are installed throughout the property in addition to a fire-rated partition and door at the first-floor level.
  • 6.4.(b) Dwelling houses with one or more storey greater than 7.5m in height (four storeys) 
    A second, separate, protected stairwell is not required if AWFSS are fitted throughout.
  • 9.1(d) Internal Planning of Flats and Maisonettes 
    Flats or maisonettes with an open plan arrangement and more than one floor should have a protected stairway and AWFSS fitted. This allows escape to the shared external entrance.
  • 9.3(b) Provision of inner rooms in flats not more than 4.5 m in height.
    Inner rooms are not suggested unless the use of an AWFSS is utilised throughout the entire building, along with a grade D LD1 fire detection and fire alarm system in accordance with BS 5839-6:2013. 
  • 9.4.2(a) Extended travel distances within an open-plan flat.
    Flats more than 4.5m above ground level that are entered on the same level can increase total travel distances to the entrances from 9m to 20m with the use of an AWFSS throughout the entire building, along with an LD1 fire detection and fire alarm system in accordance with BS 5839-6:2013.
  • 9.5.2(d) Maisonettes with floors greater than 4.5m 
    No requirement to provide a separate means of escape if the maisonette has a protected stairwell and a fully fitted AWFSS.
  • 9.7 Open Plan Layouts 
    Open-planned flats are permissible with a fully fitted AWFSS.
  • 11.1 Flats where occupants are not capable of independent evacuation
    It is possible to use provisions of an AWFSS where the use of the building is required for people not capable of independent evacuation (excluding common corridors and stairways.) It is further possible to protect common areas (excluding common corridors and stairways,) using provisions of an AWFSS where the use of the building is required for people not capable of independent evacuation.
  • 19.1.2 Vehicular Access 
    Access can be increased significantly if an AWFSS is installed and where the arrival time for the fire service is not more than ten minutes: - 90m for houses less than 4.5m in height. - 75m for houses/flats not more than one floor above 4.5m.
  • 23.1 Extra care housing
    Extra care housing must be fitted throughout with an AWFSS.
  • 23.2 Travel distances 
    If an AWFSS is fitted throughout a block of flats, then travel distances can be doubled on common escape from 7.5m to 15m and 30m to 60m
  • 29.4.2 Boundary Distance 
    Boundary distances can be reduced by 50% with a fitted AWFSS.

Read more - Is there any fire engineering research that supports the use of Automist?



2) Addressing a fire risk assessment (FRA) action or Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEP)

The requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment is contained in the Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order 2006 (RRFSO), and in Scotland; The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, and 2006 Regulations. Within the fire legislation, the requirements for firefighting require 'where necessary the premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate firefighting equipment'. If the existing fire safety measures are assessed as inadequate, action must be taken to remove or reduce any fire hazards where possible to minimise the identified risks.

Automist is often used to reduce the risk to individuals in the room of fire origin, or those escaping in adjacent rooms. For example, Automist can be retrofitted to small paying-guest-accommodation to help provide an alternative way of keeping people safe if your property has inner rooms on the first floor, and where the means of escape was reliant on escape windows. It can even be used as a compensatory measure to allow an open-plan ground floor in sleeping accommodation. The Fire Safety Order does not prescribe the specific fire safety measures required. What it does require is that you must identify and manage the overall risk and provide fire safety measures that are appropriate for the risk. NF19 and fire engineering research highlight the historical practice of applying performance-based analysis to support inner room or open plan situations with the provision of a suppression system, depending on the exact arrangement of the dwelling.

Automist can provide a high level of protection for vulnerable residents, and, for long-term older residents. It "future proofs" residents' accommodation to cater for potential effects of age on mobility, sensory faculties and cognitive ability. Automatic water fire suppression systems (AWFSS) are recommended for all new sheltered and extra care housing and high-risk supported housing. 

Other risks include those identified by PAS 9980. Some form of remediation works to the external façades might ultimately be necessary, but equally, in some circumstances, a more proportionate response might be improvements or alterations to the fire safety design and fire strategy in the building. For example, in some cases, this could be retrofitting Automist into the block.


3) Elective fire safety upgrade

In this case, Automist is being used to improve levels of fire safety. The system is not however a requirement for Building Regulations or general minimum statutory life safety standards. Therefore the design, performance and implementation of Automist is completely at the client's discretion and are not governed by statutory prescriptive requirements. In this case, the performance and/or operation of the suppression systems are not relied upon for adequate minimum standards of safety within the accommodation.


Read next - View some example case studies

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Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all of the aspects of the building regulations but rather a useful source of background information. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure that the contents of this post are correct at the time of publication, it should never be used as any form of substitution for the guidance documents. It should be noted that there may be specific additional requirements dependent upon local authority building regulations and/or fire authority. The 'responsible person' for fire safety in a premises, will need to use their own judgement to decide what needs to be done to minimise risk.