An unusual approach was needed to get the University of Hertfordshire’s de Havilland campus building to conform with Part B of the Building Regulations, which deals with fire safety.
The only means of escape from the building were staircases at either end of the teaching blocks, well away from the lecture rooms at the centre of the building.
The escape strategy works on the principle of evacuating people from the lecture rooms first, across bridges that pass through a central atrium to the teaching blocks. Measures in place to delay the effects of fire include rooflights that open to ventilate the atrium, thereby reducing smoke levels, and the use of non-flammable materials. The exception to this is the use of timber cladding on the walls (shown opposite); this has an intumescent fire-resistant coating and stops short of the ground floor so is less exposed to potential fire risks. A sophisticated alarm system incorporating a public address system is also key to the evacuation strategy. A number of different evacuation scenarios are pre-programmed into the unit so it can direct which part of the building should be evacuated first.