The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Designing Fire Precautions – Part 37

July 12, 2021 10:40 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 36, LWF looked at fire precautions in office buildings. In part 37, we consider the fire precautions guidelines for shops and other commercial premises.

Incidences of major fires causing life loss in shops and other commercial premises are fortunately low, however the potential for such fires remains high. The reasons for this are the likelihood of high occupancy, uncontrolled occupancy (there is no process of signing in, it would be difficult to be sure how many people were on the premises at any given time during opening), and a high fire load.

Designs for shops and department stores often involve large volumes and long travel distances to exits, when this is added to the fact that the occupants are often unfamiliar with the layout of the premises, it has the potential for a significant threat from fire.

Aside from the danger to persons of a fire in commercial premises, it should also be noted that the contents value is likely to be high.

All the reasons given support the use of sprinkler systems or alternative fire suppression systems, along with fire engineering design, which will also enable the designer to enjoy more scope.

BS 9999:2017 provides specific guidance for non-domestic buildings and includes revised recommendations for shopping centres. Design principles for smoke ventilation in enclosed shopping centres (BR 186) HP Morgan & JP Gardner 1990 again provides specific guidance. It should be noted that designers are not obliged to follow the directions given, but instead are advised to address the items raised.

Effective fire safety management by the building occupants is essential if risk is to be kept at the lowest possible level. Means of escape systems and practices must be suitable and checked regularly. In addition, the standards of general housekeeping are important, stock management, tidiness and appropriate rubbish disposal in a timely manner can all help avoid fire starting or avoid it spreading. In a shop it would not usually be expected that fire safety management practices would include limiting building occupants.

The fire safety provisions must be designed with the maximum possible footfall in mind. With retail premises, it is not desirable to limit the number of persons on the premises, indeed, it is necessary to encourage as many visitors as possible.

In part 37 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue to look at fire precautions in shops and other commercial premises in terms of fire suppression systems, before looking at buildings used for assembly and recreation. 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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