The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Building Types & Fire Load – Part 23

April 6, 2021 11:47 am

LWF’s Fire Safety Engineering blog series is written for Architects, building designers and others in the construction industry to highlight and promote discussion on all topics around fire engineering. In part 22, LWF looked at a building’s proximity to the site boundary and to adjacent buildings. In part 23, we discuss fire load and how it affects fire hazard.

When looking at fire load in terms of the type of fire hazard it presents, various elements should be considered – the quantity of combustible materials; the distribution in the premises; how flammable the materials are; potential smoke production and potential spread rate of surface flames.

In the main, differing occupancies have distinct and identifiable fire loads. The standards of fire resistance and limits of compartmentation to be used can be determined by prediction of the full fire development of the proposed fire load. Any other active fire protection methods employed to control the development of fire, such as sprinkler systems, could result in a reduced requirement for compartmentation and assist in preventing losses due to fire.

While passive and active fire protection products and methods can be based on property protection requirements and contents, it is important to recognise that the primary standards in any property should be for life safety purposes, as this is required by law. If the two elements – property and life – were taken in isolation, they might result in quite different fire safety designs for the same building, however, once safe egress provision from a building is in place and a suitable fire alarm system notifies any building occupants of an instance of fire, it can be assumed an evacuation of personnel has taken place and any further fire safety measures employed are for the purpose of minimising fire growth, protecting property and contents and avoiding fire spread.

The provision and use of fire suppression systems can drastically reduce the impact of fire load on design. Suppression systems that might be used include sprinkler systems, water mist (high and low pressure), gaseous suppression, oxygen depletion and foam. It is important, of course, that only the relevant method is used in any circumstance.

In part 24 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will discuss how large numbers of people in a building affects means of escape, how the inclusion of sleeping accommodation in a building impacts on fire detection and safe evacuation and how disadvantaged building occupants should be considered. 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 the LWF office 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.

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