A new concept for high rise safety; creating safer and sustainable buildings with 81% net:gross

For those involved in the development of buildings, especially tall, residential buildings, the tragedy that occurred at Grenfell Tower has led to a renewed focus upon building safety in new legislation, process and responsibility for designers. 

In response, Matt Brook Architects started from first principles to design a core for tall buildings, working closely with OFR consultants to develop the design collaboratively. Our proposals address key requirements to safeguard resident and firefighting safety including providing two staircases in a highly efficient manner to support the viable development of safe, tall buildings in an increasingly difficult construction market.  

The construction industry has a responsibility to make high rise buildings safer and more sustainable. Late last year, that obligation was formalised when Michael Gove’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced that developers would need to recommend multiple staircases in towers over 30m – something that’s since been endorsed by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC)

This change will affect developers across the country, bringing with it cost implications,  affecting the ratio between the net and gross floor areas, and ultimately the viability of projects, set against a backdrop of a national housing crisis.

While many in the industry are still digesting the news, Matt Brook Architects made a proactive move to address forthcoming legislative changes with the design of a core that was safer for residents and firefighters as well as being highly efficient. Working collaboratively with OFR, the core has been developed and validated through testing.

The ideas that have evolved in the process have been incorporated into a building in pre-planning stages in the North-West.

These core proposals, which will be unveiled in full later this year, and will help developers create safe and sustainable high-rise structures that meet new and emerging regulations.

The result is a concept with multiple benefits. Safety is a key design driver and the solution results in occupants being afforded two separate means of escape which cannot be compromised by a single fire simultaneously. The design also affords persons of impaired mobility with dignified escape routes via lifts suitable for use during an evacuation, which ensures that all occupants of the building have access to more than one escape route. 

Another key benefit is the options afforded to fire crews using the space. While the details of the designs can’t be elaborated on publicly right now, the design will allow multiple fire-fighting crews to access and exit a building on fire in tandem, allowing mutual protection to and from the seat of fire. Information, including 3D models, have already been presented of the concept to Greater Manchester Fire Service to ensure that the designs meet their needs. 

In addition, and crucially for developers, there are net to gross ratio improvements; this design concept for a two-stair building results in an 81% net:gross – that’s a 5-6% increase over a typical two-stair, tall building. It’s great news for the sector and it may mean the difference between a project being economically viable and deliverable and not.

The full details of the plans will be revealed later this year, but prior to then Matt Brook Architects and OFR Consultants will be continuing our conversations with Building Control and the fire service, ensuring that the designs meet and hopefully exceed, current requirements. 

Matt Brook Architects and OFR are also very much open to confidentially discussing the concept with those bringing forward developments too, showing how the ideas included within the design proposals can help them create safer and more sustainable structures for the future.  If you’d like to know more, please get in touch with either Matt Brook from Matt Brook Architects or Richard Rankin from OFR Consultants.