Restoration team discovers innovative fire safety solution for medieval listed building

Restoration specialists facing a last-minute challenge when renovating a historic building in the Midlands discovered an innovative fire safety solution to save the day.

The Historic Coventry Trust was refurbishing a 15th century timber-framed building – 3-5 Priory Row, formerly known as Lychgate Cottages – in Coventry city centre, to give it a new lease of life as luxury holiday homes.

Dating back to 1415, the Grade II* Listed row of three cottages needed a sensitive approach to transforming them into four homes, fit for modern living and compliant with up-to-date safety standards.

As the project was nearing completion, the local building control team flagged up the need for extra safety measures to comply with the latest rules and regulations.

Two of the three-storey cottages needed a ground-floor fire suppression system to protect the occupants’ escape route in case of fire, as the staircase in each property leads into an open plan kitchen/dining room.

The renovation team needed a solution that could be easily installed at this late stage in the project, without damaging period features such as oak skirting boards in the medieval building.

British engineering firm Plumis, based in Ealing in West London, came to the rescue with its pioneering Automist technology – an award-winning watermist system which has reinvented the traditional fire safety sprinkler.

Approved Automist installer Firemist advised the architects, Vagdia & Holmes, on the best solution for their needs and then worked with historic building refurbishment specialists Messenger BCR to plan the installation of Plumis’ watermist system. 

The system is easier and less disruptive to install, as well as being less damaging long-term than conventional sprinklers as it uses less water when activated.

Project architect Jason Brooks said: “When working on such a historic building, a core challenge for us was ensuring we preserved as much of the original structure and features as possible, while also ensuring it would meet the relevant safety regulations.

“Following an assessment, the building control team recommended the installation of Plumis’ fire suppression technology as an adaptable solution that could be easily installed throughout the historic structure without damaging the fabric of the building.

“It also provides key benefits over other systems such as the fact that, when activated, it directly targets the fire and minimises damage by using 90% less water than traditional sprinklers.

“Overall, we’re really pleased with how the installation was carried out and with so little interference with the rest of the renovation work.”

Russell Faulkner at Firemist said: “This was a really interesting project to work on and we were delighted to be able to help out.

“We are proud to have played our part in breathing new life into such a wonderful building while protecting these historic cottages and their occupants well into the future.”

3-5 Priory Row, next to Holy Trinity Church, is a remarkable survival of a pre-Dissolution building in the heart of Coventry’s high street area.

The building’s location and date indicate that it originally formed part of the precinct of the 12th-century St Mary’s Priory and is the only upstanding building which survives from the priory complex.

Its renovation was part of a £1.5 million project, which included restoration of the city’s two medieval gates, carried out by the Historic Coventry Trust and Coventry City Council.

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