The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – System Design to Aid Firefighting – Part 16

May 4, 2017 12:50 pm

In this Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment blog series for Architects and others involved in building design, we have been looking most recently at fan-assisted ventilation and firefighting shafts. In Part 16, we will be looking at the other areas of system design which can aid firefighting.


The clearing of smoke after a fire has been extinguished is a necessary procedure to allow examination of the site by the Fire Service and in order for a level of normality to resume. Both mechanical and natural systems are useful in this regard, but in the case of a mechanically controlled system, controls to override the system must be available to those fire personnel on site.


In some situations, the Fire Service may use their own portable smoke control equipment, which can comprise positive pressure fans, for instance, or the smoke may disperse because the building has been partially demolished, creating natural openings. As neither of these circumstances are predictable as an outcome in case of fire, they cannot be a part of the fire safety design plan of a building.


When considering how a fire in a basement or enclosed space will be tackled by the Fire Service, consideration should be given to the difficulty of firefighting in what can be extremely high temperatures. The inclusion of mechanical vents or pavement lights can be preferable to roof vents. Such a system would then help to reduce heat and flames, which in turn reduces the internal temperature and finally to provide a better level of visibility in the area for firefighters.


The ultimate smoke control system within a building is one which takes into account the following:


– Client requirements


– Cost of alternative approaches


– Architectural design objectives


– Fire safety requirements


– Building Services design


– Construction process


– Insurer requirements


It is important, therefore, that the detailed design is completed only when all of those factors have been successfully addressed through concept design and testing.


There is no one single way to achieve a design objective in terms of fire protection and fire safety and the most suitable option for a given project will be as a result of considering all the design objectives, considering the appropriate alternative means and comparing them against the prescriptive design codes already available.


In Part 17, we will begin to look at those situations which might commonly arise and how they can be implemented. 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.



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