AOV & Smoke Ventilation


This is intended to provide a basic understanding of how smoke control systems can protect multi-storey residential buildings and what the legislative framework is.

Why is smoke control installed in apartment buildings?

In multi-storey apartment buildings, the main escape route is always via common corridors and/or lobbies to protected stairs.

Smoke can easily spread from the accommodation, and if a door is simply left open for a short period of time quickly fill a corridor or lobby, making escape difficult for occupants.

Smoke entering the stairs can also make escape difficult for occupants of higher storey's.

In taller buildings the fire and rescue services need clear access to stairs and lobbies to form a bridgehead for operations, using a fire fighting shaft which is protected from smoke.

Legislation and standards

The legislative requirements derive from the Building Regulations for England and Wales (2000). Detailed recommendations to meet these requirements are provided in Approved Document B (ADB) 2006. It must be noted that the Building Regulations for Scotland and Northern Ireland vary in some details.

Smoke Ventilation Principles

Fire costs money. The cost as a consequence of fire, including property damage, human casualties and lost business, was estimated at £2.5 billion. If a fire does occur then occupants must be protected.

South East Smoke Vent offers a comprehensive range of natural and powered Smoke Heat and Exhaust Ventilation systems (SHEV) suitable for any size and type of building. Systems are designed to facilitate the safe escape of occupants in the event of a fire and to enable the fire to be fought in its early stages.


Typical Layouts

In residential buildings it is likely that a fire would occur within an occupant’s apartment. During the occupants escape, it is probable that smoke would enter the common corridor or lobby. The smoke control system is designed to ventilate this smoke and to protect the common stair, to ensure safe occupant escape and clear access for the fire service.

Typical Strategies

Smoke extraction can be achieved by using natural smoke ventilation in accordance with Approved Document B or where this is undesirable, through mechanical extract systems following a detailed fire engineered solution. Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs) on the external wall of the building or in a vertical smoke shaft can be used to ventilate smoke from common areas. In conjunction with both methods, an AOV at the top of the common escape stair needs to be operated simultaneously with AOVs in the affected area.


Typical Layouts

Commercial buildings such as offices and retail buildings are typically designed with an Atrium to provide an attractive, naturally controlled light and airy space. Such spaces provide a significant challenge to the fire protection design teams due to typical heights being greater than 20m and due to the openness and ability of the fire to spread from floor to floor. Evacuation routes in these areas provide a significant concern, and can become venerable to the smoke spreading throughout the building, unless an effective smoke control system is implemented.

Typical Strategies

The safe containment or extraction of smoke can be achieved by either natural or powered smoke extraction systems, within the atria or fire fighting cores. Depending on the building layout, natural ventilation systems in atria would typically use high level openings in the roof utilising the smoke’s inherent buoyancy. Powered extract systems use temperature rated fans to extract smoke with the equivalent mass of make air typically being replaced at low level.

Smoke Control

In designing a building, the incorporation of a smoke control system can significantly improve the life safety protection of the building.

Smoke Control systems (sometimes known as fire ventilation, AOV or smoke vents) come in many forms and range widely in complexity, but their basic objectives are usually the same.

The basic objectives of smoke control systems are:-

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