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Smoke Ventilation Explained

| Getting smoke out – saves lives |

Smoke kills. It’s the most common cause of fire-related deaths within the UK.

Removing smoke from a burning building undoubtedly saves lives. Did you know 50% – 80% of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation?

Luckily, there is a way of stopping smoke from spreading by installing smoke ventilation systems. Here is everything you need to know about smoke ventilation explained.

What is smoke ventilation?

Smoke ventilation is exactly what it sounds like. A ventilation system in your building which allows smoke to escape. During a fire-related emergency, people in your building may be prevented from escaping by smoke build-up, which can happen in a matter of minutes. If a fire was to break out, having smoke control systems in place limit and control the movement of smoke throughout a building. These systems are designed to both maintain clear escape routes for people and also firefighters entering the building. 




There are a range of ventilation systems designed to deal with smoke. We can advise you on the differences between these systems and which one is most suitable for your building. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

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How does a smoke ventilation system work?

Their are two main types of smoke ventilation systems which are natural and mechanical.

Natural smoke ventilation

Natural smoke ventilation systems consist of roof, window vents, smoke shafts and skylights. They automatically open when heat and smoke sensors are triggered. You’ll often see smoke ventilation systems referred to as Automatic Opening Vents (AOV), for this reason.

The beauty of this system is that it can be used throughout the year as well as for emergencies. Natural air flow on hot days is a bonus for a stuffy office or overheated shopping centre. The vents we install can optionally be opened for this purpose as well.

Mechanical ventilation

Mechanical ventilation systems do the same job but at a more advanced level. Smoke is forcibly extracted via a mechanical extract shaft which can serve corridors, lobbies and stairwells (commonly used as main escape routes). Fans inside the shaft extract smoke and prevent it from drifting into other compartments within the building.

Why you should have smoke ventilation

Removing smoke as quickly as possible from a crowded building increases the chance of a successful evacuation. It also helps the emergency services by creating a more stable environment in which they can fight the fire. Compromised access to a building presents real problems for firefighters and the survival of anyone trapped inside.  It can also affect business continuity. Delayed firefighting invariably means more damage to the structure of your building and your ability to get back up and running as quickly as possible.

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Our expertise in smoke ventilation

We’re smoke ventilation experts, partnering with only the finest manufacturers in the industry. We can work with you from start to finish; advising, designing, installing, supplying and maintaining your smoke ventilation system.

Our systems are suitable for most types of high-rise buildings including residential and commercial premises. With our experience, Silver Group can ensure your smoke control system or AOV is fully compliant to current legislation.

We work in partnership with SE Controls, the UK’s leading manufacturer of smoke ventilation systems. As such, we’re able to design, install and maintain all types of smoke ventilation and heat exhaust systems. These innovative systems are used across a wide range of commercial and multi-occupancy residential buildings, as well as local authority projects and visitor attractions.

This complete solution positions us uniquely in allowing you that your legally compliant. We ensure that all parts of the system and their fitment have been completed to standards with rigorous testing. Silver Group are regularly audited to ensure that we complete the designs to those know standards and requirements and of course to establish that out work procedures are of the very highest standards.

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Everything we do conforms to British and EU standards

EN12101 This European standard requires that the CE mark is on all components of an smoke ventilation system.  The components of all natural smoke and heat exhaust ventilators must also meet the Construction Products Regulations.

To ensure this, these components are subject to rigorous testing; extreme hot and cold conditions are created as well as snow and high winds. The vents must suffer no more than a 10% loss in aperture opening and must operate within 60 seconds on activation.

EN60335-2-103:2003 This standard covers electric drives for windows and vents and specifies that any automatic mechanism is installed with finger trap design consideration.

BS7346-8:2013 This British standard monitors the quality of product components and specifies the code of practice for the planning, design, installation and ongoing maintenance of smoke control systems.

BS8519:2010 This standard ensures the fire resistance of all cable and wiring used in smoke ventilation systems.

What does the law have to say on smoke ventilation system?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, anyone designated a ‘responsible person’ has a duty to mitigate fire risk through whatever means necessary. If smoke ventilation systems form part of that mitigation, you must ensure that you follow current guidelines.

Does your building require a smoke control systems?

The benefits of smoke control systems in buildings are well proven and for that reason they have become a legal requirement in certain types of buildings. In particular, for multiple occupancy residential developments – i.e. a block of apartments. In these cases, there must be provision for smoke ventilation in the public corridors and stairwells.

Should the building have a single staircase and is between 4.5m and 11m high but is not connected to a covered carpark, then a simple stairwell ventilator will suffice.

Once the residential building property is over 11m, then a smoke control system is mandatory. The exact requirements of which will depend upon various factors such as the furthest distance of an apartment to the staircase. This should not be more than 4.5m, however this distance can be extended to 7.5m if there if the corridor is naturally ventilated with an area of at least 1.5m².

As you might imagine, once a building is deemed as being a high-rise residential property, then as well as natural ventilation there may well be a requirement for a mechanical ventilation system as well.

Currently this legislation applies to new build projects, but it is highly likely that similar requirements will be introduced as part of the fire safety strategy to existing builds, in particular as and when they are refurbished.

The method of calculating the free area for an AOV or smoke ventilation casement window has recently been updated as shown on the diagram below. If you need any assistance on whether you require a smoke control system and if so, what type of system is required, then feel free to contact our team today.

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How can Silver Group help you

If you’re an architect, M&E contractor, facilities or building manager, you’ll no doubt have come across smoke ventilation systems. But are you confident that you know everything you need to know? We’ve come across many examples of smoke vent installations which don’t conform to current regulations.

As the responsible person, remember it’s you who’ll be held accountable when things go wrong. Smoke ventilation systems are complex so make sure you’re working with a specialist with the right knowledge and expertise.

Our expertise means that we’re one of the few suppliers in the UK working in mainstream fire safety, smoke ventilation systems and security systems. We can integrate your systems so they all work in harmony giving you, your business and your building complete protection at all times.

Additional Services You May Require

Smoke Ventilation installation

Smoke is the largest cause of death in fire-related events. Installing a smoke ventilation system means you can fight fire from the outset, often before it’s detected by alarms or humans. 


Maintenance of all fire safety systems is essential. Don’t wait until it’s too late to discover something has malfunctioned. Our skilled technicians are on hand to test all your equipment at regular intervals.

Fire Alarm installation

Fire alarm installation protects you and others from the serious risk of smoke and fire. With years of experience on our side, we can expertly guide you through the process.


It’s never too late to take care of your fire risk assessment. Without one, you are vulnerable to business disruption or worse still, prosecution, if a fire on your premises breaks out.

Want to know more about Smoke Ventilation?

For a greater understanding about smoke ventilation and why you must have it and act on it for your business, take a look at our blog.

Have an enquiry?

If you need further help, information or advice on any of our services, please give us a call.

Call our head office on: 0330 678 1102

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