The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Building Types & Fire Precautions – Part 15

February 8, 2021 11:42 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 14, LWF looked at what should be included in the fire safety information handed over to the building occupier, before looking at the responsibilities for fire safety in the new building post-completion. In part 15, we consider how a building’s use affects life safety, contents damage and business continuity planning.

The same fire precautions cannot be put into place in two similar buildings where the activities of the building occupier differ. Life safety concerns must take into account the number of people who populate the building at any given time and the risks to which they may be exposed. The necessity for fire precautions to be used which reflect occupancy type is shown by reference to building design guides across the world. In the UK, the Building Regulations 2001 is supported by supplementary documentation, which states buildings are classified according to specific ‘purpose groups’.

A building’s purpose group or designation will determine the fire precautions taken. How a fire is detected and controlled, evacuation plans and provisions, how the spread of fire is limited and smoke control, as well as facilities for firefighting will all be influenced by the building’s usage.

Different authorities may apply different criteria for building designation; those most concerned with fire safety are the authorities concerned with building certification (including the Fire Service) and building insurance (including business disruption and contents insurance).

BS 9999 Section 2 gives details on how to establish building designation based on risk profiles. Basic factors, occupancy characteristics and fire growth rates are given, enabling a risk profile to be established.

Increasingly, a building may include more than one occupancy type. Mixed-use buildings can therefore house various risk profiles and will require either separate fire safety design, or for the entire building to be designed to the highest level of risk present. In cases where occupancy type is likely to change, the fire precautions in place at the time of construction may either need upgrading in order to house certain types of organisation which may be classed as higher risk, or for the types of occupant to be limited to those which can operate safely under the existing standards.

In part 16 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue looking at building types and fire precautions, and how to address new occupancy types. 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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