The LWF Blog

Use of Qualitative Design Review in the Design Process | Part One – Overview

September 19, 2013 3:51 pm

Fire risks and scenarios in buildings are unpredictable and there are a vast number of different scenarios that could occur; far too many to feasibly evaluate every case. For a Fire Engineer, the Qualitative Design Review (QDR) is the process used to identify significant fire risk hazards and most likely scenarios, so that the required level of quantified fire safety design can be established.

To undertake a QDR effectively can seem an expensive luxury during the early stages of a project, however; it can be a very valuable exercise which can identify problems early and potentially help to reduce project cost and risk. 

Part one of this short series of two will give an overview of the QDR process. 

What is QDR?

Qualitative Design Review or QDR is defined in PD 7974: 2001 as the initial stage of any engineering design in which the basic design parameters for a project are established and the scope and objectives of the fire strategy can be defined.  The process is essentially the qualitative assessment of the design problem calling upon the knowledge and experience of the Fire Engineer and other design team members and building operators. 

Who Should Be Involved? 

The size of the QDR team will depend upon the size and complexity of the project, but will typically involve one or more fire engineers, other key members of the design team and, wherever possible, a member of operational management. 

A typical QDR team for a medium/large project would include: 

 Fire Engineer 


 Services Engineer 

 Structural Engineer 

 Operational Management 

 Approvals Body and/or Insurer   

The intention is that this team works systematically through the design to identify possible fire hazards and a range of possible strategies, which maintain the fire risk at an acceptable level. A structured approach is recommended to reduce the risk that an item is missed or overlooked.  

Identify Design Parameters

One of the key objectives of the QDR is to review the early architectural design and identify the design parameters. It is important for the Fire Engineer to fully understand the proposed use and functional objectives of the building as well as any significant hazards or design aspirations that will need to be accounted for in the fire safety design. 

Some of the parameters that should be considered are:

 Building and occupant characteristics

 Fire safety objectives (Life Safety and/or Property/Business protection)


 Architectural design 

Beyond these broader design objectives the QDR should also consider further details, such as: 

 Fire Load Densities  

 Site Conditions – Access for the Fire Service

 Construction type 

 Ongoing management 

 Potential ignition sources 

 Consequences of a hazard

The second and final part of the series on Qualitative Design Reviews will be published next week and will look at Acceptance Criteria, Analysing Fire Scenarios, Methods of Analysis and the relative benefits of QDR.

Having read this article, if you would like to know more about QDR, or would like to arrange a meeting with one of LWF’s fire engineers, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.

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