The Grove at St. Basils is an Independent Living Unit (ILU) and Residential Aged Care facility (RACF) incorporating atria that allows free flow of air and light creating an open environment within the complex. What made The Grove an interesting project, is its atria and open communal spaces such as this that are commonly found in public buildings spaces. In this project, the differences were that the occupants were elderly and may have mobility impairments, and as such, the largely open atria was assessed against potential smoke spread. The major challenge faced by Mark in his lead role as Fire Safety Engineer was maintaining a sufficient level of safety on all egress paths open to the atrium, so that smoke/fire would not affect access to the fire exits for an extended period of time.
In order to assess the issue, Mark carried out extensive 3D computer modelling to determine the possible effects of fire and smoke spread in the building. Key additional fire safety features were introduced into the building that were otherwise not required by the Building Code, thus enhancing the fire safety aspect of the design. The main atria design was also assessed and incorporated a performance based mechanical smoke extraction system in conjunction with the sprinklers to accommodate for the extended smoke and fire compartment sizes.
By allowing the atrium to connect multiple levels this assisted in a design that enabled the building to maintain its ventilation design to ‘breathe’ and become more energy efficient. This included, along with the mechanical extraction system, natural ventilation incorporating motorised louvre windows on the external walls to regulate the air movement and temperatures within the building. As part of the fire safety features, Mark assisted in the design of the fire alarm system to connect to these motorised louvres to open and provide fresh air (make up air) that enabled the hot smoke to be replaced by clear air and encourage the smoke, with the help of the exhaust fans to move away from the corridors/balconies into the atrium roof and be exhausted from out of the building.