The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Risk Assessment & Fire Engineering – Part 53

November 1, 2021 1:22 pm

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 52, LWF began discussing the use of risk assessment as part of a fire-engineered design for a building. In part 53, we continue to look at risk assessment in terms of how it should be applied to fire-engineering designs.

Risk assessment undertaken for the purposes of fire engineering design will involve an element of personal judgement. This could be necessary to identify the fire hazards, to analyse the potential consequences or in estimating the likelihood of occurrence. It is important, therefore, that the judgement in question is given by an individual with relevant skills and experience, appropriate to the fire risks involved.

In an instance where the assessment only involves the application of industry good practice which follows government guidance, it may be that the assessor will not need a detailed knowledge of fire behaviour.

However, where the assessment involves techniques which may result in fire safety solutions departing from statutory guidance, it will be necessary for the assessor to be suitably qualified and experienced in fire engineering practices and techniques and/or fire safety management.

Where the assessor has a relevant background and knowledge-base, they have an understanding of the fire hazards and fire risks inherent in the process of risk assessment and they are able to make informed decisions with a full knowledge of the potential impact of variation from a given measure.

It may be that the overriding aim is to ensure resilience, rather than fire safety measures in a building. It could be the case where the contents of a building must be protected from fire and where fire safety measures for building occupants are already in place.

In some instances, providing resilience in the design will be paramount, often where the protection of a building or asset is fundamental. For example, a data centre may be provided with automatic fire detection, enhanced fire compartmentation and fire suppression systems to achieve the resilience objectives. In such a scenario, it is necessary for the key stakeholders to establish their risk tolerance in terms of how much risk to accept, mitigate or insure against.

When deciding if certain equipment is critical to business continuity, for instance, a fire engineer will certainly need input from other parties in establishing the importance of various elements to the running of the business.

A building design is not normally based on the results of risk assessment. It is more common for fire engineering to be used to supplement good practice guidance in areas which require additional protection or to justify variations from the guidance where the application of such would result in less than optimal design scenarios.

In part 54 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will look at the risk assessment process itself. 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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