The rise of the shopping mall is no accident – but the idea of a high street over multiple floors, under one roof is a relatively new concept. With such a high density of commercial properties within a single building and so many people to keep safe, fire safety in shopping centres has become a core design element.
Designing Fire Safety for Large, Enclosed Public Spaces
Fire safety in shopping malls is a challenge, especially in modern shopping complexes. Today’s mall design trends follow a pattern of open central areas, encircled with an amphitheatre of ascending floors. This results in the highest density of shops and people accumulating at the edges.
Commercially, it makes sense to use space this way, as more and larger shops can be fit into the same footprint while preserving a sense of openness, and communal space for performances or exhibitions. The challenge presents itself in the creation of an effective protected means of escape: how do you ensure a safe flow of foot traffic in the densest areas, and avoid people becoming disoriented and lost in large, open lobbies? How do you maintain an open-plan layout, but engage compartmentalisation when required?
The key is building fire safety into the design. Little do most people know, but just about every modern shopping centre has invisible secrets – which will only reveal themselves in the event of a serious incident.
Case Studies: Fire Curtains and Escape Routes
We’ve installed our fire safety products at an extension to West Quay shopping centre in Southampton, UK. The main building features a “secret network” of escape routes, which open to accept foot traffic in an emergency. Dotted around the densely packed edges of the shopping mall are fire doors, which open into a protected escape route that runs behind the shopfronts, serving each store along the way. These open out onto multiple ground level points encircling the building.
Using Fire Curtains
Recently, we completed a large installation in a new mall in Singapore – Paya Lebar Quarter. Watch the video:
Fire curtains serve multiple purposes, but the primary concern is always the preservation of life. Fire curtains slow the spread of fire considerably, and give emergency services time to respond effectively. This limits damage to buildings in the process.
They achieve this by compartmentalising fire – but they also give a visual cue; where’s safe to go in the event of a fire? Descended fire curtains or fire shutters are a clear signal that “this route is closed.” Using them in open-plan areas, evacuees can be guided to the safest escape routes.
Fire curtains are hidden, built into ceilings or the structure itself – so architecturally and from an interior design point, there’s no intrusion into the look and feel of the space.
Our work at the Festival City Mall in Dubai is an example of this – we installed numerous fire curtains strategically around the complex, and expanded a new food court with invisible smoke curtains that match the curves of the outer edge.
Fire Safety in Public Spaces
Publicly accessible buildings must be safe for everyone to use. The bigger the building, the harder it is to get people out – unless the design takes fire safety into account before anything else.
Our expertise has led Coopers Fire to become a leader in fire safety. We manufacture industry-leading fire and smoke curtains, and we provide educational training courses and consultancy.
To learn more, call us on 02392 454 405 or email email@example.com.