Roofing Clear access to best value The sliding solution

One way to make the most cost effective use of a tight budget is to specify a smoke vent which can also be used to provide occasional access, says James Fisher, Managing Director of Bilco UK.

In some buildings, the roof will only need to be accessed very infrequently and in these instances, it is possible, with a little careful though, to specify a smoke vent which will give the necessary access without installing a separate access hatch.

Smoke vents must comply with Construction Products Directive 89/106/ EEC and EU Regulation No. 305/2011, and must carry the CE mark as well as coming with a Declaration of Conformity from the manufacturer. Therefore, if you want a product to fulfil both smoke vent and access functions, you must use a CE marked smoke vent for this dual function.

The main purpose of a smoke vent is to allow smoke, heat, and noxious gases to be vented away from the building, allowing valuable time for its occupants to escape. In the event of fire, the smoke vent will be opened to 140 degrees, by means of an actuator. This can be achieved manually using a switch, or it can be triggered automatically by a smoke alarm opening the vent, even if the building is unoccupied.

In addition to access, smoke vents can be used to provide natural ventilation and a glazed smoke vent can also be used to shed natural light on stairwells. Opting for a versatile product such as the Bilco SKY- 1M, which has a sliding glazed roof, can save the specifier a substantial amount, as its multipurpose characteristics mean that it may not be necessary to install a separate access hatch, skylight or passive vent. It can also be fitted with a rain sensor so that it will close automatically in inclement weather, preventing rain from making the stairwell slippery.

If you are using a smoke vent for access, wherever possible, a fixed ladder should be installed to make access to the roof as safe as possible. A retractable ladder should not be specified as this would impede the mandatory free vent area required under the legislation. The fixed ladder should be positioned to the side of the vent to avoid stepping over the wind deflectors and away from the actuator, to provide maximum clearance. Thought should also be given to providing a clear area on which to step out onto the roof, ensuring that it is free of obstacles. The smoke vent must also be positioned so that it is clear of rooftop obstructions, to accommodate the full 140° open position, or to allow the sliding leaf to open fully, while still providing safe passage through the opening.

When specifying a smoke vent for access, a keyed switch should also be installed on the staircase and consideration should be given to adding a switch or panic button on the roof as a means of escape from the roof area, should high wind or foul weather suddenly become a hazard.

If you are using a smoke vent as a multi-purpose product, its prime purpose must remain smoke ventilation. This means that in the event of fire, the smoke detector or the building’s fire control system must override any other controls such as a rain or wind sensor, preventing them from closing the vent when the fire alarm is triggered.

The passage through any roof access point is the most hazardous point for the user, because at this point, a handhold will not usually be available. We can now provide this with a Bilco LadderUp, an additional length of handrail which can be extended easily with one hand, and fixed in position by the user. This offers a vital additional handhold until the user is able to step off the ladder and onto the roof or, when descending, from the roof to the ladder, in much greater safety. On the descent, the user can unlock and retract it, again one-handed, allowing the smoke vent to close unhindered.

Very often, a high quality standard size stairwell smoke vent, giving 1m2 free vent area, can be used for all these functions, so that, with careful thought, great savings can be made without any compromise on quality.


TEL: 01284 701696 27

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