Conversion of multi-storey offices in Red Lion Square, London

At very short notice I was asked to inspect the means of escape in a single staircase existing large office building which was to be converted into residential accommodation. The existing building relied on a reciprocal escape arrangement via the roof by agreement with owners of the building next door, a common arrangement in London decades ago. I inspected both buildings and subsequently made several observations to the developer which included the following: basement and upper storeys stairs were continuous and AD B says this cannot be done; all escape routes need 2m headroom according to ADB and this could be a problem in parts of the tortuous escape route in the adjoining building; the minimum number of (conventional) escape routes for a building with not more than 500 people needs two escape routes, but the existing building had only one; the minimum width of escape route should be 800mm for up to 50 people using it; the roof forming part of escape route needs fire resistance and should be guarded; the external escape route would need emergency lighting and fire signage. Ventilation of the staircase would be advantageous using smoke windows (one at the upper level and one at foot of staircase) for use by the fire service. I submitted my report but the eventual use of the building is not known.

Client: private building developer