The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – What is fire engineering – Part 1

November 2, 2020 2:04 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. The updated CIBSE Guide E (2019 version) will be used as a significant reference and all other guidance and documents referred to will be linked for the use of the reader. In part 1, we look at what fire engineering is and how it is governed.

Fire Engineering can be split into two main disciplines – fire protection engineering and fire safety engineering. The former covers situations where the engineer is engaged to design fire systems, such as fire detection systems (fire alarms) and automatic fire suppression systems (sprinklers).

Fire safety engineering refers to when an engineer is asked to work on a design of fire strategies for a building or group of buildings. Such matters as the number and placement of stairways, structural fire protection measures and smoke control will fall under his remit. The ultimate design will be concerned with the management of fire and smoke spread, for life safety purposes.

BS 7974 Application of fire safety engineering principles to the design of buildings. Code of practice and the International Fire Engineering Guidelines, produced by the Australian Building Codes Board for use in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, both provide a framework for fire engineering with the aim of fire safety in buildings.

Not all fire safety designs for buildings are fire-engineered. Guidance is available which provides prescriptive solutions to fire safety issues. Compliance with statutory buildings and codes can be gained in following the formal guidance given in the Building Regulations in England and Wales, through Approved Document B., or through providing an alternative method (when using this method the overall level of safety must not be lower than the approved document provides), so for example using BS 9999.

Very many projects are completed with prescriptive solutions, but when a building is large or complex, commonly, fire engineered solutions are the only method of achieving both design and fire safety aims.

Formal guidance documents such as Approved Document B and the National Fire Protection Association Codes cannot be expected to cover a wide range of design challenges. One example of a way prescriptive guidance limits building design is the specification of maximum travel distances to exits. In a standard building of an average size, a maximum travel distance is easily incorporated by the Architect into the plans, but when the project is for a very large building, it may be difficult for such standards to be maintained.

A fire safety engineered approach would consider the time necessary for conditions to become untenable and how far could be travelled by building occupants in that time. Additionally, this approach would work to ensure, through various methods, that the time available was maximised through the protection of escape routes, etc.

Part 2 will continue looking at what fire engineering is. 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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