17 Apr 19 by Simon Wheeler

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, fire protection measures have become of increasing concern to tenants and landlords. Many Landlords looked more closely at whether their premises provided suitable fire retardance and whether there was adequate protection for occupiers and users of buildings.

The Plymouth Barbican Trust are a long-standing client of Vickery Holman and they are a vital local organisation whose mission is to conserve as much of the historic fabric of the properties in the ownership of the Trust as is practically possible. The organisation also understands that the best way to conserve a building is for it to have a practical use. Fire protection measures were of deep concern to the Trust.

The Looe Street premises has three storeys and had previously been a suite of offices with open plan design and some design features that did not now comply with current standards – e.g. a spiral staircase that was open from ground to second storey. Sadly, even though the building is intrinsically charming and very well maintained, the market in Plymouth for office space had been weak and an alternative use needed to be found for the property.

Additionally, modern regulations and statute require 60 minutes fire resistance between floors of a building and 30 minutes fire resistance from walls and doors on those floors. Whilst there, we also improved the fire retardance of the ceiling to the second storey and the thermal insulation – the existing building had very little in the way of insulation.

Lastly, a smoke lobby was required to the second storey and this was also installed. This was the tricky part of the whole job, as, to make the new installation as in keeping with the original building fabric as possible, a lot of time was needed to integrate new and old walls and leave all looking flush. All buildings move, and this one is an old building!

On behalf of the Trust, Vickery Holman applied for Change of Use (it is now “House of Vogue”, a plush hair and beauty therapy salon), Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission, and also Building Regulations approvals. We also provided all the drawings and other documentation needed to accompany the applications and liaised with Plymouth City Council as required.

Vickery Holman then specified and tendered the works and finally delivered them as Contract Administrator and Construction (Design Management) advisor under CDM 2015. The Tenant took occupation, and the building has much improved fire integrity as a result of the work undertaken which will help preserve life should the unthinkable happen.