Hilton Hotel

In 1995, the Nairobi Hilton Hotel embarked on a substantial upgrade and refurbishment. The 19-floored hotel had been designed with one staircase and no alternative means of escape, which posed a huge risk. The brief was to design and install a fire escape staircase that would meet International Fire Regulation Standards while causing minimal disruption to the fully operational hotel, both spatially and during construction. Despite approaching international architects, engineers, and a team of local consultants, no feasible solution had been found.

PLANNING was approached by the project managers, and within 3 hours, a solution emerged. Two months later, construction commenced on a staircase that is circular externally but square in plan to fully comply with International fire escape regulations.

PLANNING ruled out the addition of a staircase internally, realizing that this would eliminate at least one bedroom per floor and require cutting away reinforced concrete floor slabs—a noisy and disruptive exercise using diamond-tipped saws and constant water cooling. Instead, their solution was to build an external staircase prefabricated off-site in dry conditions. The staircase was designed to be self-supporting from floor to floor, with loads transferred back into the building’s structure, eliminating the need for additional foundations. This approach also avoided the potentially disruptive process of taking new concrete foundations through the entrance hall and/or the adjacent ballroom.

The external fire escape staircase was completed on budget and on time. It is now 100% internationally fire compliant and serves as an elegant improvement to the exterior of this city hotel.