Lobby Protection versus Fire Suppression
The entrance to flats very often features a lobby – a small hallway space between the front door to the flat and a second fire door that leads into the flat itself. Lobbies eat up valuable space and are often resisted by property developers. It's easy to see why: recovering a lobby space of 8m2 would be worth around £12,000 at UK average house prices and around £17,000 in London in 2013. So why do we need these lobbies?
The main purpose of these fire lobbies is not to improve safety within the flat itself, but to slow the flow of heat and smoke from a fire in the flat into communal areas, ensuring that other flats in the building always have a safe escape route.
So will I be allowed to remove a lobby?
Sometimes the standard layouts for flats prove unattractive for either commercial or aesthetic reasons, and the presence of lobbies is no exception. Because the building regulations are not prescriptive safe alternatives can be found. However, as with any non-standard layout, you should discuss the proposal in detail with your building control officer before starting your project. Coming up with a demonstrably safe proposal may require additional compensatory measures, such as smoke control or Automist, and will likely need the support of an independent Fire Engineer. Each project must be assessed on a case by case basis.