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An investigation into resilient fire engineering building design

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posted on 16.05.2013, 12:27 authored by Peter Wilkinson
As an engineering discipline within the United Kingdom, fire engineering is relatively young. It has been accepted as an alternative to traditional prescriptive means of meeting the functional requirements of the Building Regulations since the publication of the 1985 edition of Approved Document B, which was one of a series issued to provide practical guidance on the requirements of the Building Regulations for England and Wales. It deals specifically with fire safety requirements for building work. Performance-based fire engineering design methods have facilitated architectural design freedoms and supported creative construction. This research has established that for a successful and holistic fire engineering strategy to be developed; The end-user client should describe from the outset what they want their building or facility to achieve, and there should be an agreed process for this to happen; Commercial property insurers should be consulted and exploited as a useful and intelligent resource to the design team; and Fire engineering practitioners should fulfil their role as advisers to the architect, or building design team, in order to achieve the agreed objectives. However, it has become evident that since fire engineering has become more established, it is clear that we are far from this ideal situation. Significant concerns have been raised regarding various elements of the design process including the ability to consider aspects other than life safety. Within this discourse, the author has outlined their research investigating how performance-based fire engineering techniques are used within building design. The literature review explores key concepts of fire engineering including definitions and benefits etc., and also describes concerns regarding the motivations for applying fire engineering techniques to building design. Survey-based research suggests that greater input is required from commercial property insurers at the building design stage in order to champion property protection and business resilience objectives. A case-study investigation, however, concluded that for a number of reasons, it is impractical to expect the insurer to influence the design team to the extent desired. Therefore, in response to these various research activities, the concept of business impact analysis has been introduced and developed by the author to ensure that property protection and business continuity objectives are at the forefront of new building design, whether the insurer is involved in the process or not. In order to help consulting fire engineers and architectural design teams incorporate business protection objectives in their fire safety designs, there is a requirement for the established British Standard, which defines a fire engineering procedure, to be enhanced. The author was instrumental in acquiring support from the Technical Committee within BSI responsible for maintaining the Standard, and PD 7974-8 Application of fire safety engineering principles to the design of buildings- Part 8: Property protection, mission continuity and resilience (British Standards institution, 2012) has been developed and published, led by the author. This significant new Standard embeds the use of a business impact analysis as an integral part of the qualitative design review process. Without following the BIA process as described in the draft document PD7974-8, business resilience objectives may be missed within the building design phase, allowing an inferior package of fire protection measures to be incorporated into building developments. For the first time, this new document will enable the building designer to be fully cognisant of their client's critical processes and the resources required to support these processes. It will therefore enable the appropriate fire safety measures to be incorporated into the building design to enhance business resilience. Initial evaluations of this guide though various stakeholder dissemination activities and a public consultation process has been positive. The potential concerns that the evaluations have raised regarding the role of the fire engineer throughout the building design phase, and regarding the prevalence of BIA within organisations will be addressed in the guide and the way it is publicised upon its launch.


EPSRC and the Fire Protection Association



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© P.J. Wilkinson

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A dissertation thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the Engineering Doctorate (EngD) degree at Loughborough University.

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