River Quarter II

Location Sunderland, United Kingdom
Services Fire engineering
Sector Mixed-use (residential, lifestyle and retail)
Client Gentoo
Architect Napper Architects
Imagery © Andrew Heptinstall

Dr Ahmed Allam

T +44(0)20 7438 1600

The River Quarter II is an 11-storey, mixed-use building, forming part of the Sunderland city regeneration scheme. The ground and first floors comprise a large bowling emporium and a café/bar. The remaining upper floors include 53 private residential apartments, arranged around a central landscaped courtyard. Cundall was appointed to provide fire engineering services on the project to ensure that legislation was satisfied in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

The main benefits that Cundall's integrated fire engineered approach contributed to the design of the building are as follows:

  • Providing independent escape routes for each of the different building uses
    In order to reduce the number and size of the escape routes, the required widths were determined using advanced pedestrian dynamics modelling and research, rather than standard code-based recommendations. This approach minimised the impact the escape routes had on the usable space within the building without compromising the safety of people within the building. This approach resulted in an increased net-to-gross area ratio. 
  • Fire resistance
    Based on the use of the building and its overall height, the standard design guidance would recommend that the elements of structure should be provided with 120 minutes of fire resistance. The recommendations used in the design codes are derived from standard fire tests that have little relationship with actual building fires. By investigating the effects of fire on this particular structure and identifying the fire scenarios that were likely to occur, Cundall was able to demonstrate that it would be acceptable to provide only 90 minutes of fire resistance while still achieving the same excellent level of safety for the building users. This allowed the steelwork to be protected with intumescent paint rather than more traditional boarding systems, which would have impinged on the storey heights of the building.
  • Providing appropriate solutions while retaining structural integrity
    The balcony decks were originally to be formed from concrete planks, which provided the fire resistance required by the Building Regulations. However, during construction, problems arose and a timber decking system was identified as the only realistic alternative. As this was the only means of escape from the apartments, it was critical that the structural integrity of the decking remained intact. The Cundall team used its knowledge of how timber performs when exposed to fire to determine the required thickness of the decking to ensure that its structural integrity would not be affected and both allow people to escape and enable fire-fighters to perform their duties safely and efficiently. This insight prevented a delay in the construction programme, while ensuring that the Building Regulations requirements were satisfied.
  • LABC Building Excellence Awards - Best Housing Project (Regional) 2009
  • LABC Building Excellence Awards - Best Housing Project (Local) 2009