There is no doubt that making the most of existing buildings will help ease housing demand, which is continuing to rise and quickly too. 

Ian King

Ian King

These types of projects could help ease the pressure on the government to reach its housing supply target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, which is looking rather doomed based on current build timeframes.

On paper, this repurposing concept is a brilliant one and has the potential to create a really positive change for cities where dwellings have been disregarded. We could start to see communities revitalised, as offices become apartment blocks with local shops underneath.

The fire risk in conventional open-plan offices is actually minimal. Having been built to meet the specific purpose of an open office space, the main components of the structure including the floors, ceilings, roof, walls and windows will likely be fit for purpose, up to standard and fire safe.

It is when these areas are divided up into individual apartments that the problems start to emerge. The building can quickly transform from being fire safe to a serious fire hazard.

When buildings are repurposed, their intended purpose also changes and a new set of fire risks emerge. For instance, when an office building is being occupied within a standard nine-to-five working day, the fire escapes are typically easily accessible through the open plan space, by everyone in the building. When it becomes residential, it will now be occupied 24 hours a day with people living, cooking and sleeping in the newly converted apartments, with a multiplicity of doors and corridors to navigate between while trying to escape the fire.

This was never catered for in the original design of offices.

Ian King is chief operating officer of Zeroignition