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Open Plan Living: 5 Key Building Regulations Questions to Ask

Open-plan living spaces have become a hallmark of modern design, offering a sense of spaciousness, flexibility, and connectivity that traditional layouts often lack. However, transforming your space into an open-plan layout involves navigating various building regulations to ensure safety, functionality, and compliance. As you weigh up your design options, here are some tips to help you to create a safe and legally compliant open space.

What are the main Building Regulations issues for open-plan spaces?
The main issues associated with open-plan areas are fire safety and safe escape.

Question 1. How will fire safety be maintained in an open-plan layout, and what specific regulations must be followed?

Since there are no barriers in open-plan designs, fire and smoke can spread more quickly, fire safety is of utmost importance. Installing suitable fire detection systems, making sure there are enough escape routes, and using fire-resistant materials are all part of adhering to fire safety laws.

Is a fire door, for instance, separating your staircase from your open-plan area to provide a secure exit from other areas of the house? Is there a fire door separating the kitchen, which is obviously a high-risk area for fires? How about airflow? When it comes to open-plan areas, one of the most often things I am asked is how to get around the problem of the kitchen fire door—which a lot of people don't want to install.

Question 2. Is there a fire escape route?

If there is a fire, one of the main things your architect and building control officer will ask is "Will it be safe to escape?" It's a serious matter that should not be taken lightly, and although addressing it frequently makes open-plan spaces more challenging, following these guidelines is still crucial.

For instance, it would normally not be permitted for a stairway serving as an escape route from upstairs rooms to pass through the kitchen. This is because no escape route should pass via the kitchen as it is deemed to be a fire danger. Staircases serve as escape routes as well, and on the ground floor, all rooms typically require a 30-minute separation, or fire doors, surrounding them. The sole path that could lead to an escape

Question 3. Is there a secondary fire escape?

A second fire escape, or what the Building Regulations refer to as a "secondary escape," from these spaces is required if you want to design an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area.

As long as they adhere to the minimum size regulations, these escapes could be windows or doors leading into the garden. If so, you might not need to use doors to divide your living area from your dining area and kitchen.

Question 4. Do you need a sprinkler system?

Given that sprinklers can be costly to install, most homeowners undoubtedly wish to avoid having to install them.

Unfortunately, this may be the only way to handle this type of design, as Building Regulations stipulate that there must be a safe passage through open-plan areas next to stairs. In the case of a fire, escape routes are made safer by being "sprinkled" with fine water mist, which gives you more time to get out.

Sprinklers should be taken into account when:

  • According to your design, you'll have to pass through a kitchen to go from the stairwell to either your bedroom or your front door.
  • In an attic space or loft, where you want everything to be entirely open. Sprinklers act as doors and walls to divide rooms.
  • You have lengthy corridors in your house and no secondary means of escape.
Question 5. Is there sufficient kitchen ventilation?

In open-concept kitchens, mechanical ventilation is a must for kitchen extractors, these eliminate water vapour, which is produced while cooking, in addition to odours, CO2, and other dangerous gases. Just like in a bathroom without ventilation, mould might grow if extraction isn't done correctly.
Bringing Your Open-Plan Vision to Life

Embarking on an open-plan renovation can be both exciting and daunting, but asking the right questions and working with experienced professionals can ensure a successful transformation. At Ty & Mor, we are dedicated to creating stunning, functional spaces that comply with all necessary building regulations. Our team of experts is here to guide you through every step of the process, from initial planning to final execution.

Get in touch today to discuss your open-plan design project and discover how we can help you create the perfect space.

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