Façade Fire Safety and Fire Strategy Development
Building codes across the globe typically cover a vast range of fire safety requirements that specifically relate to various types of buildings. However, the fire safety principles that are generally applied to these different buildings largely remain the same given the accepted dynamics of fire, smoke and human behaviour.
These principles can be condensed down to the following design assumptions:
- There will be a single fire within a building only, acts of malicious ignition cannot be designed for;
- Such single fire scenarios will/should not block multiple exit routes;
- Designs should look to contain any fire within the room/space of origin;
- There should be two routes to escape where possible; and
- The distance necessary to escape should be limited.
Typically, a buildings fire strategy or safety case will therefore look to provide for a wide package of fire protection measures including:
- Detection and Alarm;
- Fire Suppression;
- Compartmentation and Protection;
- Means of escape;
- Management; and
- External façade safety
When considering external façade safety strategies there will be several objectives that have to be considered:
- The design should prevent external fire spread from one building to another – which can be addressed by limiting the use of combustible materials within the façade and creating remoteness between buildings;
- The design should prevent internal fire spread within the building – which can be addressed by installing appropriate fire stopping and compartmentation measures; and
- The design should prevent external fire spread from outside of the building – which can be addressed through correct specification of fire resistant/non-combustible façades.
Failure to meet these design objectives can have catastrophic results and the recent fires in high rise buildings, such as those in Australia, France, UAE, South Korea and the USA over the past few years -as well as the Grenfell and most recent Bolton fires, provide us with a plethora of evidence to suggest that for too long we have not been getting it right.
Façade fire safety must play a vital part of the overall fire safety objectives for the building because, in successful buildings, the package of fire safety measures work hand in hand.
Developing and understanding your building’s fire safety package and the subsequent fire strategy/safety case is therefore essential if owners, designers, contractors and managers are going to play their role in both preventing fires and managing - or rather mitigating - the consequences of fires.