Fire safety is one of the most important aspects of any building, no matter whether it’s residential, commercial or industrial. Ensuring that there is an effective smoke ventilation system in place is crucial and can make all the difference in the event of a fire by helping to make it safer for occupants.

When it comes to choosing which type of system to go for it will depend a great deal on the size, type, layout and height of the building as well as other factors. By understanding the difference between natural and mechanical smoke ventilation systems, you will be able to make an informed decision about which one will be the most effective and work best for your property.

House on a rainy evening
  • What is a Smoke Ventilation System?

Smoke ventilation systems are designed to control smoke, heat and fumes in the event of a fire, allowing them to escape through vents and windows, maintaining visibility and keeping exit routes clear for occupants to safely escape.

  • Natural Smoke Ventilation Systems

This type of system manipulates the smokes natural characteristics, utilising thermal buoyancy, wind and passive forces to clear the smoke and fumes from the building. This is achieved using strategically placed vents, windows and smoke shafts that create apertures for smoke to escape through and allow fresh air to get in. Not only are they effective for smoke ventilation but they also provide many additional benefits when it comes to cooling, energy consumption and air quality.


  • Natural smoke ventilation systems can work out to be very cost effective to install.
  • Can significantly reduce reliance on mechanical systems such as air conditioning, lowering energy usage which result in huge savings on operational costs.
  • They are low maintenance and require very little upkeep.
  • Widely used to control humidity in a variety of buildings, across multiple sectors and industries, eliminating the need for costly dehumidifiers.
  • The constant flow of fresh air can help to prevent airborne illnesses, meaning fewer absences and disruption to staff.
  • The reduction in the need for electric powered systems for temperature control makes them very eco-friendly.
  • Ideal for blocks of flats, HMOs or apartments where the budget is limited.


  • They can be less effective in warmer climates or the summer months when it is hotter.
  • In the winter the excessive cold air can be dispersed too quickly.
  • They rely on natural forces which can make the air flow difficult to control.
  • Mechanical Smoke Ventilation Systems

The mechanical ventilation method uses power driven fans to push, move around or suck the air and smoke away, forcing it in a particular direction. When smoke is detected in the property, openings on the effected floors or areas are triggered, automatically opening vents, dampers or grills and activating the fans which extract the smoke and fumes.


  • Quickly clears escape routes for a faster, safer evacuation for occupants.
  • Better suited to larger buildings, those with multiple levels or long exit routes. 
  • Doesn’t have to rely on weather conditions to work effectively.
  • Take up far less space in the building which provides greater design flexibility.
  • The air flow can be properly controlled.


  • Typically, they are more costly to install, run and maintain.
  • If not properly maintained, then performance can be compromised which means it can fail to work effectively at the time it is needed the most.