The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Building Types & Fire Precautions – Part 19

March 8, 2021 11:02 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 18, LWF began to look at the fire engineering implications of a building’s depth below ground. In part 19, we will continue discussing a building’s depth below ground level.

The challenges of fire engineering planning and firefighting at basement level of a building do not mean that the usage should be avoided. On the contrary, for some types of occupancy, a basement level can be most useful. A much higher floor loading capacity is possible than in upper floors and it is ideal for heavy equipment.

Basements offer an environment with no windows and are also acoustically sensitive and so they could provide an ideal environment for lecture spaces, for instance.

A more usual way of using a basement is for storage, which could involve a much greater fire load than a lecture space, but have a lesser likelihood of personnel being in the area.

Each use to which a space, particularly a below ground space, might be put must be assessed as a specific risk and the fire safety recommendation should be designed with that in mind. It should be noted that while the original building design can only address the requirements of the building owner/occupier at the time of building, any future alterations to the usage of a basement level must be mitigated by a further assessment and, possibly, additional fire precautions being taken.

In part 18, it was acknowledged that there is an increased risk to occupants and firefighters in below-ground levels which should be addressed through smoke and heat ventilation, along with fire suppression measures and the sub-compartmentation of basement floors.

The products of fire – heat, smoke and particles – need a viable route of exit from the basement space and it is important this does not default to the route followed by evacuating occupants or firefighters who are making entry. Smoke and heat venting at source can help in this regard, in addition to ensuring occupants of upper floors do not have to go down to basement level in order to exit the building and providing separation of escape stairs at access level.

Fire-resistant compartmentation should also be used to separate basement areas from the upper floors. It should be noted that some deep basement levels may require the installation of firefighting shafts with lifts to support access by firefighters.

In part 20 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will look at the implications of building area on fire engineering design. 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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