Daylighting and smoke ventilation design specialists, Whitesales Limited is highlighting the risks associated with uncertified side or top hung windows being used as smoke vents.
Em-Louvre smoke vent is fully certified to BS EN 12101-2, increases building, occupant and firefighter safety, and is designed specifically with multistorey residential and commercial buildings in mind. The higher the building, the greater the importance of effective smoke exhaust and escape route planning. Typically, stairwells are the main route for building evacuation, and Building Regulations Approved Document B outlines the relevant design requirements.*
At height the wind load factor also becomes a major barrier to effective smoke exhaust, unless the vents are designed to counter the effects of wind. Yet for years, some building designers have incorporated side- and even top-hung OVs and AOVs (opening vents and automatic opening vents) in apartment blocks – essentially fitting windows with actuators to address smoke evacuation. All Em-Louvre smoke vents are issued with guaranteed Aerodynamic area values giving you assurance of specific performances so that requirement of vent area requirement can be accurately met.
In the confusion, panic and reduced visibility that accompany a major fire, both top- and side-hung vertical smoke vents without louvres present a dilemma; what appears to be the opportunity to escape or at least breathe fresh air, at height becomes a dangerous fall hazard. Em-Louvres are impact resistant to impact Barrier Load BS 6180 RC2 even in the open position removing the risk of falls from height.
“A well-designed fire safety system carefully combines the principles of smoke and heat exhaust with clear – and smoke-cleared – escape routes. We don’t believe side or top hung windows adapted to smoke vents are a wise solution primarily because of their lack of certification,” says Jon Fleet, lead designer at Whitesales. “Our vertical louvre smoke vents draw out smoke, fumes and heat and provide fresh air to aid breathing – clearing escape routes which direct people to the safest point of exit as decided in the fire evacuation plan, yet present zero risk of falling.”
The Em-Louvre smoke vent and air supply louvres are extremely easy to install, even in existing facades, and are designed for use in high, exposed locations. They open to 90 degrees in under 60 seconds, feature anti-trapping actuators to prevent injury, and rule out the possibility of falling from height. They can also be specified either with insulated aluminium louvre blades or with double- or triple-glazed blades to maximise light in communal zones.
While vertical louvre smoke vents are in widespread use on the continent, here in the UK there is limited awareness. “There’s no room for compromise in smoke ventilation system design,” says Jon Fleet. “And side- and top-opening smoke windows create a hazard while trying to overcome another. We hope that the launch of the Em-Louvre will raise awareness of the dangers of vertical smoke vents, which pose significant risk to life.”
*Additional detail can be found in various guidelines produced by the BCA (British Control Alliance), LABC (Local Authority Building Control) and the SCA (Smoke Control Association), among others. All smoke ventilation products used in these settings must be CE marked, certified to BS EN12101-2 standard and be accompanied by Declaration of Purpose for their specific usage.