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Case Study: West Middlesex University Hospital - Fire safety strategy, Fire engineering
LWF were commissioned, by developers Bouygues (UK), to develop a fully cohesive fire safety strategy for a major new-build hospital incorporating the re-development of an existing adjoining hospital wing.
The primary core of the project is a new-build acute healthcare premises contained over four storeys (levels 01 to 03) with the lower level (basement) containing plant/services, with the remaining floors containing patient accommodation. The main entrance to the hospital is located at one extremity of the new build section and enables direct access to the hospital's main double height circulation space. This space dissects the hospital lengthways with patient accommodation positioned to either side (horizontally & vertically). The existing Medical Block, also contained over four storeys, is of a relatively square footprint and is constructed using the traditional cellular approach with means of escape to sub-compartments and from there to stairs located in a central staircase core arrangement. The block contains a mixture of both patient accommodation and staff offices. Together the buildings are to be considered integral in operational terms with the augmentation of site services.
Both the new-build and existing structure are primarily to be designed under the guidance contained within HTM 81 'Fire precautions in new hospitals'. However, of particular note is the difference between the philosophies demonstrated within the Medical Block building. NHS Estates Firecode acknowledges the merits and practicalities of permitting the use of different legislation between connecting hospital buildings where one is solely used for staff admin/offices etc. and the other is that of acute patient care (ie. the use of Approved Document B for the staff only access areas). However, the medical block building has been assessed at the next level in this approach by allowing differing standards of fire precautions to be used upon the same floors where these contain two differing types of occupation. Although this theory is not actively promoted by the NHS Firecode documentation, it is stated that their recommendations describe only one way of achieving an acceptable standard of fire safety within hospitals and that an alternative solution may be sought by adopting a fire engineering approach provided that a similar standard of fire safety is demonstrated. As such, the development of the strategy expands upon an existing, and widely accepted practice, and where any short-comings in the scheme were identified, engineering solutions were developed.
Such an innovative solution has proved both cost effective and functionally acceptable to the client, whilst still providing a satisfactory level of fire safety provision that is acceptable to the relevant authorities.