Maintaining smoke control systems in car parks.

Posted by Tom Archer on 25/08/21 14:00

Car Park Smoke TestColt has worked on many car park projects that require smoke control systems over the years and our knowledge in designing, installing, commissioning and maintaining them is unrivalled.

Smoke control can be installed in car parks at the point that the car park is being built or it can be integrated into an existing car park, as needed. In addition to smoke control and clearance, ventilation systems are also known to be installed in car parks to offer general ventilation throughout to avoid the build-up of exhaust and/or petrol fumes or when overheating may become an issue. Whether for smoke, fume or ventilation requirements, there are many options for both smoke control and smoke clearance in car parks.

They are:

  • natural smoke and fume clearance;
  • natural smoke and mechanical fume clearance;
  • mechanical smoke and fume clearance.
  • mechanical smoke control

Mechanical systems can consist of:

  • extract fans and natural inlet,
  • extract and mechanical inlet,
  • natural exhaust and mechanical inlet.


Main extract impulse ventilationThere is some confusion about the difference between a smoke clearance system and a smoke control system. If you are designing strictly to the regulations, smoke clearance will be prescribed with little or no performance-based objectives using a ventilation rate or opening area derived from the size of the car park. It will have been designed to allow the fire service to clear the smoke from the building after it has dealt with a fire. But if you are taking a fire engineering approach, then a smoke control system may be the best solution based on specific performance objectives defined in the fire strategy.

There are many circumstances where engineers prefer to choose smoke control and this is usually where the performance of the ventilation system is needed to be enhanced to compensate for another non-conformance, examples might be:

  • If you are not planning to provide a sprinkler system in those car parks where sprinklers are required, such as car parks attached to shopping centres or located in Scotland.
  • If the car park doesn’t meet prescriptive maximum travel distances for means of escape.
  • If you are planning stacker type car parking.
  • in lieu of compartmentation.
  • in lieu of ventilating lobbies.

This is a decision that should be made at the design stage, since upgrading from smoke clearance to smoke control retrospectively is likely to require additional plant and new ducting to create the enhanced ventilation rate. In addition, the ducting will have to be correctly positioned and specified which may be difficult for a retrofit.

Whether you design it in from the beginning or retrofit it, it is essential that you pay attention to maintenance and have a regular, consistent schedule of testing, checks and servicing to adhere to. As the building owner or operator, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires you to provide a suitable system of maintenance to ensure that the system remains efficient, in working order and in good repair. In order to help engineers get a better understanding of the work that has been done (and may need doing), as well as to provide proof of 'a suitable system of maintenance', it is also crucial that you keep a log of any maintenance activities that have taken place over the years.


Jetstream konstruktorskaIf you have existing car park ventilation systems, no matter who installed them or the types of systems, it is essential that you maintain them properly. Both morally and legally, you want to know that if a fire happens, your system will do the job it was intended to do and keeps the building and its occupants safe.

Some car park ventilation systems may have enhanced life-safety features such as CO extraction to prevent dangerous build-up of fumes or a means to help people escape in a fire. It is important to keep these working as intended and legally compliant with building regulations.

When it comes to smoke control maintenance, the regulations say: "The smoke control system should be maintained by a competent person who is familiar with the fire engineering performance specifications of that specific system." As the building owner of operator, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires you to ensure that the system is serviced one a year to guarantee the safety of people who use the car park. In addition to a proper, expert service once a year, regular "in-house" tests will also have to be carried out by you to ensure the system is working properly.

Colt can help you meet your legal obligations and give you peace of mind.

If you need help, advice or want to discuss service contract options, contact us for a free building survey.

Topics: Smoke ventilation, service, smoke control maintenance