Case study: Robust fire safety strategy unlocks future for landmark Edinburgh building.

Jenners department store is synonymous with the grand, historic architecture of the Scottish capital. Located in its prominent position on Princes St, overlooking the expansive gardens, the building which has stood proudly as a part of the city’s rich history since its opening on the site in 1838, was suffering a sad demise since COVID, with the doors to the labyrinth department store closing in January 2021.

However, plans are afoot to bring this beautiful building back to its former glory and OFR Consultants is proud to be very much a part of this incredible renovation project – one which will see the building repurposed and revitalised for a bright, sustainable future. 

Earlier this year, David Chipperfield Architects released images of its vision for Jenners, visually describing its plans to create a hotel on the upper floors whilst also restoring original features and its stunning glass roofed atrium by creating space for restaurants, cafes and new street frontage to the building. OFR associate director Jamie Gibson explains how a robust fire engineering strategy plays a critical role in such plans: “This is a building with ornate ceilings, corridors, features – to bring it back to life you absolutely need to use fire engineering. One complex element of the design is the incorporation of new hotel accommodation, as part of the scheme, which needs careful consideration to ensure the existing structure is adequate. What makes this project so exciting and innovative is that it is about repurposing not rebuilding – something that can be enabled when utilising specialist fire engineering input at an early stage and throughout the detailed design.”

Describing how the Jenners building had, over time hidden many of its incredible features, Jamie continued: “Over the years, the building has had false ceilings and walls added, so we are stripping that back to let the light back in and expose the original features. We are looking to reuse and enable the ornate existing structure, the impressive columns and structural supports and to enable this, the team are undertaking a historical analysis of these in conjunction with the BRE. 

“We are unlocking an atrium that was filled in and not visible. There are architectural structural features in the building that we are working hard to maintain while demonstrating that an acceptable level of fire life safety is achieved.\

“As one of the most interesting and historic projects that we’ve been given the opportunity to work on, Jenners is about resolving the relationship between old and new. This thoughtful renovation is about reserving a historic approach to architecture, while applying modern regulation and sustainability principles. There’s a green agenda for reusing existing structures which can conflict with modern standards – we’re passionate that fire engineering unlocks that relationship.”

Find out more about the Jenners project here. Images copyright David Chipperfield.


Jamie Gibson


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