The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design –Risk Assessment Pitfalls– Part 74

April 4, 2022 11:50 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 73, LWF looked at the difference between cost and affordability in terms of unexpected expenditure which results from an unanticipated fire risk. In part 74, we consider another risk assessment pitfall – the use of one piece of legislation to negate the requirements of another.

When undertaking a risk assessment, it has been known for the assessor to put forward other legislative requirements as a reason fire risk reduction measures cannot be put into place. A regularly discussed example concerns heritage buildings, where the protection of the heritage building is used as justification not to undergo alteration for fire safety reasons.

It is understandable that people may wonder if there is a hierarchy of legislation and if so, where fire safety might fall. However, there is no such hierarchy and the need to comply with all legislation is equal. For this reason, one set of requirements cannot be used to overrule another.

In the case of heritage buildings, this might mean that fire safety solutions must be creatively designed to avoid altering the building, or it may mean that a suitable fire safety solution can be found but that it might be a more costly solution than if a modern building with no restrictions on development were in question.

There are sector-specific solutions available which help to avoid unnecessary alterations to historical buildings, such as fire detection systems which communicate via radio waves to avoid the necessity for excessive cabling. It may also be possible to provide upgrades to the fire resistance of such buildings, providing it is reversible. The final fire safety solution chosen should be one which reduces the fire safety risk to an acceptable level and which does not cause alteration to the fabric of the protected building.

Non-legislative requirements, such as the requirements of the project, cannot take precedence over safety related concerns. Such issues should be addressed and remedied by the design team to take into account fire safety matters as well as client requirements.

In part 75 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will look at another pitfall in the application of risk assessment to fire engineered designs – incorrect or inappropriate references to good practice. 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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