The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Fire Safety Engineering – Part 3

November 1, 2018 12:25 pm

In LWFs blog series for those who work in Facilities Management, or who have an interest in or responsibility for fire safety, we have been looking at Fire Safety Engineering. In part 2 of this series, the development of the discipline through such bodies as the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE) and Institute of Fire Safety was discussed and in part 3, we will look at Fire Engineering and education.


Around the same time as the IFE achieved recognition as a nominated body by the Engineering Council in 1997 and the qualifications Chartered Engineer (C Eng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and Engineering Technician (Eng Tech) were available for awarding to suitably qualified and experienced practitioners, many more higher education courses and qualifications became available. Universities and colleges are now able to offer courses in Fire Engineering at HNC, B Eng, MSc and PhD, there are also BSc degrees in fields such as fire safety management too.


The IFE defined fire engineering as ‘The application of scientific and engineering principles, rules (codes), and expert judgement, based on an understanding of the phenomena and effects of fire and of the reaction and behaviour of people to fire, to protect people, property and the environment from the destructive effects of fire.’


When considering the fire safety engineering design of buildings, there are two recognised approaches – prescriptive and fire safety engineering. Prescriptive approaches can be defined by their adherence to recognised codes of practice, standards and guidance documents and also by each component of fire safety being approached in isolation of all other components, in so far as prescribing the design.


The prescriptive approach has its roots in the very earliest days of fire safety legislation. In 1189, it was decreed that all houses should be built of stone and should not have thatched roofs. Party walls had to adhere to a minimum thickness and height in order to avoid easy passage of fire from one dwelling to the next. This basic objective remains at the root of building regulations today.


The building regulations remained prescriptive in approach consistently until the mid 1980s when they were reviewed to set out a number of straightforward fire safety objectives. This became the guidance contained in Approved Document B.


The prescriptive approach was also supported and utilised by fire insurers to achieve their objective of property protection. The technical bodies advising the insurers produced rules that were rigid in nature. Although some insurers still adhere to the inflexible rules used previously, the majority are now much more flexible in how the objectives are achieved.


In part 4 of this series, LWF will continue to look at the prescriptive approach to fire safety. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.


Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.


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