While aesthetics can dominate the planning process for architecturally designed spaces, safety and compliance must also play their part. When it comes to smoke alarms, the NZ Building Code requires one within three metres of every bedroom door, and at least one on every floor of a home or commercial space.

But can you make this important safety measure an integral part of your style as well? According to Shaun Howes from CAVIUS, there are many ways to improve fire safety and aesthetics within the home.

One giant leap
According to Howes, most smoke alarms in New Zealand homes are ionisation alarms.

“This causes problems,” he says. “[Ionisation alarms] often don’t go off to smouldering fires, and as everyone knows, they’ll often start beeping when you burn your toast.”

The alternative is photoelectric alarms, which don’t have such problems. Fire services across New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Europe have started to recommend photoelectric alarms – Germany and the Netherlands have actually phased out ionisation models entirely.

As well as greater and more discerning fire detection, photoelectric alarms require less ongoing maintenance when it comes to battery life. Changing the battery in an ionisation alarm doesn’t improve the quality of the alarm itself, which can last anywhere from five to 10 years. CAVIUS photoelectric alarms have 10-year lithium batteries, with a 30-day alarm sounding when the components are on their last legs – many other photoelectric alarms still run off 9V batteries, with a shorter life span.

It’s longevity and detection that befits New Zealand’s trend towards larger and more open architectural homes.

Detection with style
As Howes points out, smoke alarms can also add an element of style to the home. For example, he says the CAVIUS Nano product is more often than not mistaken for a Bluetooth speaker or other household audio implement.

It’s also the smallest smoke alarm in the world, barely the size of a golf ball. With the potential for wireless technology to be introduced to the market later in the year, there are great leaps and bounds being made in the way we protect our homes from fire risk.

The great thing about the CAVIUS smoke alarms is due to size and Danish style, they can be installed in the key areas of the home – like bedrooms and lounges – and won’t be an eye sore.

Technology doesn’t stop there, either. Thermal Heat alarms have also been developed, to protect one of the areas most prone to fire – the kitchen.

“Our Thermal Heat alarms are a unique product,” Howes says. “They are installed directly in the kitchen and detect rapid and constant fluctuations in heat. These fluctuations come from naked flames or flash fires which commonly start in kitchens.

These are good for laundries and garages too – areas where there are chemicals or whiteware, where you won’t get slow burning fires.”

He says that smoke alarms tend to get blocked up by cooking grease in the kitchen, and with ionisation alarms you also have the aforementioned issue where fire particles from cooking can set it off.

While Howes says the NZ Building Code is not yet in line with Fire Service recommendations, there are clearly many ways to improve fire safety with better smoke alarms, as well as using fairly inconspicuous products.

It’s something every home designer and architect needs to think about. Where can smoke alarms go, and how do they fit into the overall floor plan and design of an architectural home?