Garden rooms and fire

With the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London, fire safety is on a lot of garden room buyers minds at the moment. My Eco Space, for instance, tell us that two existing clients and three prospective customers enquired about fire safety in the space of one week. This is a similar pattern to what we are seeing here at The Garden Room Guide.

Buyers tell us that they are concerned that the insulation and cladding systems said to be at fault at Grenfell Towers are similar to those used in garden room design. They are concerned that should there be a fire, how much time they would have to evacuate the garden room to a place of safety.

Many buyers are concerned about the fire rating of garden rooms

Many buyers are concerned about the fire rating of garden rooms

In most cases, a garden room doesn’t need to comply with Building Regulations

Most of the garden rooms built each year do not need to comply with Building Regulations, as they are classed as garden sheds – granted, very posh & expensive ones!

However, as the Planning Portal says…

If you want to put up small detached buildings such as a garden shed or summerhouse in your garden, building regulations will not normally apply if the floor area of the building is less than 15 square metres and contains NO sleeping accommodation.

If the floor area of the building is between 15 square metres and 30 square metres, you will not normally be required to apply for building regulations approval providing that the building contains NO sleeping accommodation and is either at least one metre from any boundary or it is constructed of substantially non-combustible materials.

Taken from the Planning Portal page Is Building Regulations needed for an outbuilding?

The Building Regulations are the set of rules under which the standards that each element of a building needs to meet, are laid out. These regulations include rules for fire proofing a building.

No one material can be used to fireproof a garden room, rather thought has to be given to the fire rating of each layer of the multi-layer build-up typical in garden room design. In reality, the materials commonly used in garden room design will eventually burn away, but garden room designers can choose & mix materials that combine together to extend the time you have to safely evacuate the garden room.

Garden rooms less than 1 meter from a boundary

Many garden room buyers choose to buy a 2.5-meterter high garden room because it can be sited close to the boundary under the Permitted Development rules. However, if you are siting your garden room within 1 meter of any boundary it should be constructed substantially of non-combustible materials if it sits on a footprint of between 15 and 30 square meters.

As a buyer, who is wanting to site your garden room within 1 meter of any boundary, it would be wise to question your chosen supplier about their specification and the non-combustible materials used in the build-up, to ensure you are meeting this rule.

Many garden room designers have given fire proofing a lot of thought

As we mentioned in many cases a garden room does not need to comply with Building Regulations. However, a number of garden room companies either design all their buildings to Building Regulation codes as standard, or have fire saftey at the forefront of their mind and will implement the necessary measures on a build by build basis.

My Eco Space, for instance, has given the events at Grenfell Tower, had their garden room specification re-checked by a Surveyor to ensure it meets the relevant codes in relation to fire safety. My Eco Space garden rooms have a fire containment time of 110 minutes – at just short of 2 hours, this should be more than enough time to safely leave a single storey building like a garden room. For more information about their specification talk to the My Eco Space team on 0113 880 0294 or drop them an email: [email protected] Visit the My Eco Space website to explore their garden room designs.

SIPS Garden Rooms have given a lot of thought to their specification in relation to fire, as MD Quentin Farrow explains:

As standard we should all be sticking to the regulations as far as Fire is concerned. Time and time again you see Garden Rooms being installed within 1m of a boundary and there is still no use of a “Non Combustible Material” on that elevation.

Fire proofing is not just about one individual item that offers a Class A1(ordinary fires; Class D metals that burn)fire resistance, it’s about the entire “System” within a Wall buildup.

In the past when additional fire rating was required most builders would just add another layer of FR plasterboard(not classed as Class A1 non combustible)to decrease the spread of fire by another 30minutes, but even this layer will eventually burn away. We offer a single passive 2hr fire rating with a thin 12mm single skin external board; if you combine another internal sheet(same product)you’ll add another 2hr rating and combining the HBCD in the EPS(Insulation)you’re well over 4hrs Fire Rating without adding internal fire rated paint on the inside/outside.

You see really EVERYTHING can burn, it’s just about the “Type” of fire and its intensity so using non invasive and non toxic(no poisonous fumes) Class A1 Non combustible fire resistance is the safest most effective way of stopping a potentially devastating fire.

We use a MgO(Magnesium Oxide)board in all our fire applications and SIPS Garden Rooms are the first Garden Room company to do so. The product offers a Class A1 non combustible option for both external and internal applications. It is easy to cut, non toxic and isn’t as heavy as the older non Class A1 HD Cement Board products.(Please contact us directly for details; other Garden Room companies are most welcome)

To learn more about SIPS Garden Rooms specification give them a call on 01865 600 697 or email them at [email protected]

Green Studios design all their garden rooms to Building Regulation standards, as Craig Riley, Managing Director of Green Modular stresses

All of our buildings fully comply with building regulations and are compliant with fire safety regulations”.  He expands on this by explaining “to satisfy fire safety requirements,  our modular buildings for schools and businesses above 15m2 floor area need to be installed with a minimum 1m gap between the building and the boundary.  Alternatively, we can build the structure as close as physically possible to the boundary by adding extra fire-proof materials to ensure the building is largely non-combustible.”

To learn more about the steps Green Studios take to fire proof their garden rooms call them on 01923 205 090 or take a look at their website to see examples of their work.

Thinking about fire safety in garden room design, the Warwick Buildings team comment:

All buildings are at potential risk of fire, and garden buildings are no different. All the same sensible fire precautions would apply:

  • As per general fire safety a fire escape plan should be the first consideration combined with smoke alarms. In terms of Garden Buildings as they are on one level and normally do not exceed the 9m threshold for inclusion of a compulsory additional fire safety exit, then the main door satisfies fire safety requirements. Smoke alarms should be fitted and ideally using a system which can be heard in the main residence  or perhaps connected to the main house alarm system.
  • Any furniture should be fire retardant and meet the furniture regulations.
  • Any highly flammable surfaces should be removed, flock wallpaper and polystyrene tiles are a couple of examples (these materials are not used in our buildings)
  • As per recommendations all electric wiring systems should be checked by a qualified electrician at regular intervals      All Warwick Buildings are wired using pre-manufactured, high spec, heat resistant moulded cable with pre-wired/pre-tested connectors. The customers own qualified electrician will connect the building once installed, to the mains supply, test the system and issue a Part P Certificate as per the  legal requirement
  • If there are likely to be smokers in the building ensure there are plenty of ash trays which need to be cleaned and the contents disposed of safely
  • Any wood burners fitted by a qualified installer using the correct flue
  • Never overload extensions or multiple sockets

At Warwick Buildings our offices undergo a general health and safety/fire risk assessment and which includes materials/design/fire exit requirements etc. prior to installation as part of our general policy (this is carried out by a NEBOSH qualified member of our team). Any of our customers are able to request a copy of our own Risk Assessment for the safe use of garden buildings.

For further advice from the Warwick Buildings team give them a call 01926 815 757 or email [email protected]

Consider incorporating a smoke alarm

Like a room in your house, you can incorporate a smoke alarm into your garden room. We don’t often see smoke alarms listed on standard specification lists, but they are certainly an option you can ask your designer about. Many bespoke garden room designers will offer the option of a smoke alarm as part of their tailor-made electrical specification. In these instances, they will wire the smoke detector into the electrical system, so that you don’t need to keep checking the batteries. Some garden room designers will use a system which will sound in the main house if there is a fire in the garden room.

Talk your concerns through with your garden room designer

Please talk your concerns through with your garden room designer. If their buildings are not Building Regulation compliant as standard, they should be happy to advise you on the specification changes that can be made to improve its fire rating. Remember to ask your designer about the use of non-combustible materials when siting your garden room within 1 meter of the boundary.

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Visit the Garden Spaces websiteVisit the eDEN Garden Rooms websiteVisit the Gembuild website for garden offices & studiosVisit the Harrison James websiteFind out more about Green Studios Visit the Booths Garden Studios websiteVisit the Timeless Garden Rooms website Visit the Smart Garden Offices websiteVisit the Hideouts websiteVisit the ModBox Spaces websiteVisit the My Eco Space websiteSee what a garden room will look like in your garden