The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Building Types & Fire Precautions – Part 16

February 15, 2021 11:36 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 15, LWF considered how a building’s use affects life safety, contents damage and business continuity planning. In part 16, we continue looking at building types and fire precautions, as well as how to address new occupancy types.

The challenges of fire safety design in the modern world of construction have never been more complex. In addition to the potential for a single building to house various types of accommodation – and therefore different levels of fire risk – new occupancy types are emerging.

Some of the recent additions to occupancy type include apart-hotels which are, as the name suggests, self-contained accommodation units/apartments, including kitchen and living areas, which are let for very short terms, just as a hotel room might be.

Extra-care accommodation is also becoming more popular and while this has much in common with sheltered accommodation, extra-care accommodation allows independent living to the elderly or persons with disabilities, with high levels of personal care provided at home.

The existing guidance documents cannot hope to keep up with developments in occupancy type and so the building designer/fire engineer is likely to base their fire safety design on the BS 9999 approach, which introduces risk categories and allows the occupancy type to be fitted to those categories dependent upon characteristics.

In the case of a simple and straightforward building, it may be appropriate to allocate a specific occupancy type, but for larger and more complex projects, some assessment of the validity of the occupancy grouping should be carried out in order to ensure that the proposed fire precautions are sufficient and appropriate.

Whatever type of building is to be designed and built, there are a number of common factors between them which can be relied upon. Buildings which require extremes of those factors will also need greater fire protection and increased fire precautions.

When considering building height, for instance, there are various safety considerations that must be addressed in the fire safety design. A greater vertical travel distance is necessary for escape from the building in case of fire. Firefighters must also face increased distance and challenges associated with moving personnel and equipment to the site of the fire. A longer escape time will be necessary for people inside the building and the implications if the building were to collapse are considerably greater in a taller building.

In part 17 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue discussing how the height of a building affects fire safety and planning. 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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