With space and money at a premium, not to mention the desire to hold onto buildings of architectural significance, ‘re-using’ old buildings for a different use or just refurbishing them is becoming a common and popular option for many contractors. However, what are the pros and cons of this kind of design in terms of Fire Engineering?
Existing buildings are unlikely to meet the current Building Regulations and the moment they undergo a change they will be required to meet the latest regulations. This means that often a square peg will need to fit inside a round hole. An innovative design therefore becomes imperative to enable the project to get off the ground.
In a ruling made last month, the Brutalist designed Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, East London, will not get listed status and is therefore likely to be demolished in favour of new build flats. Built in the 1970’s the Robin Hood Gardens have been hailed as architecturally significant and the fight to keep them has been long and hard, but for some (including several of the residents themselves!) the design is merely an eyesore.
Regardless of who is right; the cost of bringing the buildings up to standard is higher than the cost of simply ‘knocking them down’ and starting again. The current design uses the private balconies as the secondary means of escape, therefore relying on all occupants maintaining an escape route for their neighbours. However, if you take a walk through the communal garden, you’ll soon see that this is definitely not the case – and with the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO) legislation it would be virtually impossible to enforce until a tragedy struck. The only way to ‘save’ the buildings from demolition would be a very robust and bespoke fire engineering strategy. Although the curtain may now have fallen for Robin Hood Gardens, Innovation Fire Engineering would have enjoyed the challenge of trying to save a piece of history – even though it may be a concrete jungle!