Section 18 Venting of heat and smoke from basements

Venting of heat and smoke from basements

  1. Introduction
    1. Provision of smoke outlets
      1. Natural smoke outlets
        1. Mechanical smoke extract
        2. Construction of outlet ducts or shafts
          1. Basement car parks


            18.1The build-up of smoke and heat as a result of a fire can seriously inhibit the ability of the fire and rescue service to carry out rescue and firefighting operations in a basement. The problem can be reduced by providing facilities to make conditions tenable for firefighters.

            18.2Smoke outlets (also referred to as smoke vents) provide a route for heat and smoke to escape to the open air from the basement level(s). They can also be used by the fire and rescue service to let cooler air into the basement(s). (See Diagram 53.)

            Provision of smoke outlets

            Diagram 53

            18.3Where practicable each basement space should have one or more smoke outlets, but it is not always possible to do this where, for example, the plan is deep and the amount of external wall is restricted by adjoining buildings. It is therefore acceptable to vent spaces on the perimeter and allow other spaces to be vented indirectly by opening connecting doors. However if a basement is compartmented, each compartment should have direct access to venting, without having to open doors etc into another compartment.

            18.4Smoke outlets, connected directly to the open air, should be provided from every basement storey, except for any basement storey that has:

            • aa floor area of not more than 200m2 and
            • ba floor not more than 3m below the adjacent ground level.

            18.5Strong rooms need not be provided with smoke outlets.

            18.6Where basements have external doors or windows, the compartments containing the rooms with these doors or windows do not need smoke outlets. It is common for basements to be open to the air on one or more elevations. This may be the result of different ground levels on different sides of the building. It is also common in 18th and 19th century terraced housing where an area below street level is excavated at the front and/or rear of the terrace so that the lowest storey has ordinary windows and sometimes an external door.

            Natural smoke outlets

            18.7Smoke outlets should be sited at high level, either in the ceiling or in the wall of the space they serve. They should be evenly distributed around the perimeter to discharge in the open air outside the building.

            18.8The combined clear cross-sectional area of all smoke outlets should not be less than 1/40th of the floor area of the storey they serve.

            18.9Separate outlets should be provided from places of special fire hazard.

            18.10If the outlet terminates at a point that is not readily accessible, it should be kept unobstructed and should only be covered with a non-combustible grille or louvre.

            18.11If the outlet terminates in a readily accessible position, it may be covered by a panel, stallboard or pavement light which can be broken out or opened. The position of such covered outlets should be suitably indicated.

            18.12Outlets should not be placed where they would prevent the use of escape routes from the building.

            Mechanical smoke extract

            18.13A system of mechanical extraction may be provided as an alternative to natural venting to remove smoke and heat from basements, provided that the basement storey(s) are fitted with a sprinkler system in accordance with paragraph 0.16 (It is not considered necessary in this particular case to install sprinklers on the storeys other than the basement(s) unless they are needed for other reasons.)

            Notes:Car parks are not normally expected to be fitted with sprinklers (see paragraph 11.2).

            18.14The air extraction system should give at least 10 air changes per hour and should be capable of handling gas temperatures of 300degC for not less than one hour. It should come into operation automatically on activation of the sprinkler system; alternatively activation may be by an automatic fire detection system which conforms to BS 5839-1:2002 (at least L3 standard). For further information on equipment for removing hot smoke refer to BS EN 12101-3:2002.

            Construction of outlet ducts or shafts

            18.15Outlet ducts or shafts, including any bulkheads over them (see Diagram 53), should be enclosed in non-combustible construction having not less fire resistance than the element through which they pass.

            18.16Where there are natural smoke outlet shafts from different compartments of the same basement storey, or from different basement storeys, they should be separated from each other by non-combustible construction having not less fire resistance than the storey(s) they serve.

            Basement car parks

            18.17The provisions for ventilation of basement car parks in Section 11 may be taken as satisfying the requirements in respect of the need for smoke venting from any basement that is used as a car park.