The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – Provision of Firefighting Shafts – Part 54

August 12, 2019 12:15 pm

In LWF’s Fire Engineering blog series for Architects and others in the building design business, we have been looking at what provision should be made for firefighting activities in a building. In part 53, we discussed how firefighting lobbies have traditionally been restricted in terms of floor space to avoid it being used for other functions, before introducing the subject of firefighting lifts. In part 54, we will continue talking about firefighting lifts and then consider ventilation issues.

Firefighting Lifts

While the recommendations state that firefighting lifts should not be used as goods lifts or for the removal of refuse, there are some distinct advantages in the ‘plus’ column too. Vehicular access to the goods lift is usually good, to allow for deliveries, the lifts themselves are usually larger than a passenger lift and are often lined with damage-resistant materials which would, therefore, not be damaged by firefighting equipment. The goods lift also usually opens in an area which is away from busy areas of circulation, which allows space for firefighters to set up and use their equipment.

In order for a goods lift to work as a firefighting lift and be within the firefighting shaft, the building must have employed suitable management procedures to support the fire safety management policy and the lift itself must be adequately programmed in order to function correctly.

If the goods lift is in use when the fire alarm starts, it should be returned to ground/fire service access level and cleared of any cargo ready for use by the Fire Service, all of which should be accomplished before their arrival.

If a fire were to start within the goods lift itself, it would be unlikely to spread to any other area outside the firefighting shaft within the time it would take the Fire Service to attend and extinguish the fire and the fire would be accessed from another firefighting shaft, as would be the case with any other fire involving a lift.


Before choosing a ventilation system, also known as a smoke and heat exhaust ventilation system (SHEVS) for a building, it makes sense to think about the objectives involved. Once the necessities have been pinpointed, it is possible to get an accurate idea of what is needed.

In a building which contains various storeys, the firefighting staircases and lobbies should be ventilated. An assessment should be undertaken of the potential for smoke production, the extent of the compartmentation used between potential seats of fire and the lobby area, and the effects on smoke production and flow, considering any automatic fire protection systems.

In part 55 of this series, LWF will continue to discuss ventilation. 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 0800 410 1130.

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.

Share this post