ARCHITECTURE & FIRE SAFETY
Fire is something can be useful, but it can also be dangerous. Without fire, civilization probably is different, further it might not even exist. Such as important thing fire is interested by human since back the employment and discovery of it. Fire according to Cote and Bugbee (1988) is a serious threat to people, and the principal cause of death in building, beside falls, which is also responsible for a large number of deaths in building-related incidents. Among the momentous dynamic forces such as earthquake and windstorm, devastations from a fire are about 20 times those from earthquake and wind disasters (Walls, 2007).
As we all accepted, there is a risk of fire in every building that is designed, and it is also know that complete safety from fire is impossible. Dated back to all the major fires that cause loss of lives serves as an example that underlines the importance of building design. And remind architects/ engineers of their responsibility to minimize the risks of fires in buildings.
However, fire safety is not the only objective which the architect has to consider while designing a new building. Actually, fire safety is one among several other considerations such as functionality, aesthetics, human comfort, structural stability, cost-effectiveness, constructability, maintainability, and sustainability, etc (Kodur, et al, 2012; Park, 2014), that building designers must fulfil at the early stages of building design process (Stollard, 1989; Fire Sector Federation, 2015).
“Most of the passive fire protection design for structural framing remains within the project architect’s responsibility, with little if any input from a fire protection or structural engineer” (Kodur, et al 2012. Pp 826).
Also making sure that these principles of fire safety are integrated with the other more general objectives of architectural design is architect’s responsibility as well. So, all these make fire safety as a delicate objective for a designer to consider.
Although architects are not trained to be fire consultant, related to architect’s role as principal designer, the only thing for them about the fire is to be aware of the fundamental principles of fire safety. These fundamental principles are determined and published by municipalities of every government as a legislation. The purpose of the legislation is to set minimum standards of safety with which architects must fit in with; however, these rules that obliged to follow without understanding the logic behind generally lead to cumbersome compromises or unfavorable design. Hence, the design team should not view the legislation as design guidance but they should understand these regulation’s logic and accept as a guidance of minimum safety standards.
The main objective of this paper is, besides be dwelled on one perspective, to explore the fire and fire system and it’s relation with architecture for respecting to designing fire-safe buildings. So this paper will discuss the fire protection and controlling systems from general to the architectural point of view.
Building design process is an uninterrupted series of actions by design team members such as architects, structural, mechanical, electrical and fire safety engineers, to achieve a comprehensive building design (Park et al, 2014). Generally, these series of actions have four stages which can call as: pre-design, schematic design, design development and construction documents. In a general statement, there are two methods for a design process which can be either: conventional linear design or integrated design. In the linear design approach, architects primarily manage the design progress and request engineers and other consultants to take part when the design improved. In the integrated design, on the other hand, is used for large size building project where, interested parties in the projects such as the client, the project manager, architects and other consultants- engineers come together early on in the design process to share project information. Actually, this process allows for identification of required building performance and reduces any possible divergence that may arise later in the design stages.
In the past few decades, there had been lots of changes in the design and construction of fire engineered buildings such as transport terminals, airports and high-rise buildings and etc. For a safe design, the design process should be carried out by both architects and engineers simultaneously. As it stated that consideration for fire protection should be carried out by the architects in conjunction with the structural engineers in a synchronized order. While architects design the building layout-including the exterior and interior walls, structural engineers should produce structural calculations that meet fire safety regulations.
Before going over the fire protection there are few terminologies that should highlight for understanding the dangers of fire which are;
- Combustion; is a series of very rapid chemical reactions between a fuel and oxygen (usually from the air), releasing heat and light.
- Flames; are the visible manifestation of this reaction between a gaseous fuel and oxygen.
- Smoke; is the general term for the solid and gaseous products of the combustion in the rising plume of heated air.
Fire safety is basically considered to cover both the safety of people and of property in the building and in the surrounding. In designing to ensure life safety the architect is trying to reduce the potential injuries or deaths within acceptable limits to the occupants of the building and for others who may become involved from the surrounding.
As a secondary topic, property protection is the reduction to acceptable limits of the potential for damage to the building fabric and it’s contents. For this, the architect generally trying to ensure that the building can continue as much as possible to function after a possible fire, and building’ damages can be repaired. Also, another important thing is the strength of a building. The building should remain safe for firefighting operations during the fire. And the risk to close properties have to be considered, as well as the wider hazard of possible environmental pollution.
In a brief summary, these two topics can be seen as protecting people from smoke and flames, while property protection concerns keeping heat away from the building. This oversimplification can consider as an abstract of the principles which the architects must fulfill against the dangers they must avoid.
According to Paul Stollard and John Abrahams, the fire safety components are the weapons that the designer can use tactically to achieve fire safety. (1991,p.16) For having an acceptable level of fire safety, there are five tactics that provide a fundamental framework within which the architects should be working. These tactics provide life safety and property protection that architects trying to fulfill can categorize under as;
The simplest and most effective tactic is ensuring fire safety is to prevent fires starting. If this tactic is successful, then there is no need even to attempt any other fire safety measure but of course, fire prevention will inevitably fail at some stage during the life of the building, so preparation must be made for the other tactics as well.
The first necessity for the architect is understanding common inflammation risks in the particular building type under consideration and trying to take adequate precaution according to it. There are four main classes of inflammation that can take precaution to which are;
- natural phenomena such as lightning
- human carelessness such as smoking materials, matches, cooking
- technological failure such as electrical wiring and appliance faults
- deliberate fire-raising such as suicide, vandalism.
If necessary to lay emphasis on, even if all the precaution are taken against these four main classes of inflammation, the architects can only maximize the chances of preventing a fire, it must be remembered that the precautions can never be 100% effective and that inflammation can occur eventually, so this leads us to the other tactics.
When a fire occurs, it is essential that it is detected the fire as fast as possible. In the case preventation did not work, the best action can be taken to ease the consequences of inflammation, and this may lead to possible success.
Once a fire is detected, either by the occupants or automatic means (such as fire detector or etc. ), it is then necessary to communicate the location of the fire to the occupants and the fire service. The information will enable any preliminary preparation for fire evacuation. So that fire evacuation can start and trigger any automatic response such as an active smoke control system, closing or opening fire doors or triggering a local suppression system and etc. Hence, it is important for fire protection that architects consider communication system as a whole rather than an isolated piece of engineering. The communication system should be conscientiously designed to according to the needs and the form of the building, and it must provide a network from discovery of the fire to the information being delivered to each occupant of the building and of course the city fire services.
Architects can also make a positive contribution to fire safety process while the designing the circulation routes and certain types of accommodation. By achieving healthy passive surveillance of the building by the occupants fires can be detected earlier as well.
Another important thing that designers avoid if at all possible circulation areas which are used only for fire escape and are normally deserted. Such areas will not be under regular surveillance and a fire in such areas may not be detected quickly. So that architects should carefully design all the circulation routes and the occupants area in favor of fire protection system.
Every building must be designed by taking into consideration that the occupants can escape in case of fire breaks out. They must be able to reach safety areas such as fire protection zones or outside of the building, without being overcome by the heat or the smoke, and therefore the time needed to escape has to be shorter compared to the time it will take the fire to spread out the building. These circumstances can be achieved by controlling fire spread and by making sure that escape routes are neither too complex nor too far.
The means of escape must be designed the way it works with the general the circulation routes in the building. It is not adequate only to consider means of escape as a series of protected routes whereby people can escape by their own efforts from any point in the building to a place of safety or with the other words outside of the building.
Actually, as a brief, there are two main escape strategies: the first one is egress which is simple, direct escape type from the building when the alarm is heard. And the second one is refuge which is the use of the structural fire containment of the building to provide a place of safety within the building.
While designing the means of escape from a building the architect must consider very carefully the likely occupants and their patterns of behavior. An understanding of the characteristics of the occupants’ behaviors will provide the information of their possible speed of travel, and in conjunction with the expected speed of fire spread, enable the architects to design adequate means of escape.
But the real influentials of means of escape are decided by the certain of the physical design factors emphasized in escape codes and guidance which all related to numbers of the occupants.
In addition applying the escape codes and other regulations, the effectiveness of the signposting such as exit or escape, the clarity of the internal layout and routes, the quality of fire safety training and response that can also help to minimize the risk of injury or death from possible fire.
Furthermore, for minimizing the risk help by the means of escape, architects should carefully follow the regulation related to the exit discharge and the exit features in the building directly proportionate to user capacity and the scale of a project. The escape features that determined by fire regulation can be categorized as;
- travel distance
- widths of the exit
- number of exits
- limitation on the travel path
- hand rolls-step width
Generally, the function of the building determines the needs and applications of fire protection system of a building but the main logic of the basic principles are same for each building. From a general perspective, the architect designs travel distance the way minimize distance and maximize ease of reach, and also consider the width of the exit and number of exit according to a number of occupants as well.
The openings of the escape are generally designed as the way limited to necessary to allow access to the exit and each opening is protected by an approved self-closing fire door that remains closed or automatically closes in an emergency.
The ability of a building’s design to contain a fire once started has a critical importance for the protection of the property and the lives of the occupants, furthermore for the surrounding people and surrounding buildings. No matter fire is detected and the communications system alerts, people, and equipment take precaution or not, the design of the building should remain the fire the way it is contained and limited. Fire containment provides the opportunity of achieving both property protection and life safety. The property protection occurs through the limitation of fire spread and fire resistance provided to the elements of the structure. Life safety occurs by the limitation of smoke spread and through the provision of places of refuge within the building to which the occupants can escape.
Passive measures of fire containment concern the building structure and its envelope. By passive measures, effective fire protection to the structural elements of buildings can be provided. These measures can consider available like a defense against fire spread as long as the building remains still stand.
These passive measures can be categorized into three topics which are;
- Structural protection- the protection against the effects of heat provided to the structural elements of the building such as columns, load-bearing walls, and floors.
- Compartmentation—the division of the building into zones and the resistance to fire and smoke offered by these divisions
- Envelope protection—the protection offered by the envelope of the building to both the surrounding properties and people.
Beside all these containment which help to limit the spread of fire and smoke whenever a fire occurs that consider as a passive. But there are active containments as well and these are generally applicable for a designer with or without the passive containment against the fire.
Active measures are generally deal with the particular problems of smoke control and the limitation of the spread of smoke throughout the building. When the toxic and lethal qualities of smoke have been considered, for the sake of people life best solution is keeping them apart. And most smoke systems are designed to keep smoke away from fire escape routes however, some systems also assist directly in fire extinguishments such as sprinkler systems, water mist systems and etc.
No matter how effective containment is against the spread of a fire, eventually the fire that occurred must be extinguished. The most common extinguishing agents are water, foam, carbon dioxide and dry powder.
To sum up, fire is considered as a serious threat to the building and it’s the occupants. The reason for avoiding fire is impossible at all. The fire protection system is developed in architecture and become one of the main parts of building systems. By the help of the five main tactics that is mentioned, architects try to minimize damage or avoid it as possible. By the assistance of these tactics, the loss of lives and the rates of injuries can be reduced also the protection of building can be increased. For further conditions, no matter how developed these systems today, the measures should be more developed for having more safety conditions against fire as well.
- Stollard, P., & Abrahams, J. (1999). Fire from first principles: A design guide to building fire safety. London: E & FN Spon.
- Fire safety guide. (1997). Hong Kong: Printing Dept.
- Fire precautions in the design, construction and use of buildings. (1991). Milton Keynes: British Standard Institution.
- Building construction and safety code: NFPA 5000. (2008). Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.
- Fire from first principles: A design guide to international building fire safety: 4th ed. (2014). Milton Park, Abingdon: Routledge.
- Stollard, P., & Johnston, L. (1994). Design against fire: An introduction to fire safety engineering design. London: E & FN Spon.
- Buildings and fire. (1987). Harlow: Longman scientific & technical.
- Chow, W. K. (2004). A Short Note Of Fire Safety ForNew ArchitecturalL Features. International Journal on Architectural Science,(1), 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.bse.polyu.edu.hk/researchCentre/Fire_Engineering/summary_of_output/journal/IJAS/V5/p.1-4.pdf
Engineers / Consultants
Guest: Fire Protection Specialist-Tanju Ataylar
Theme: Fire protection & architectural space
This week Tanju Ataylar shared some important informations about fire protection and how these systems design in the buildings.
Fir protection systems are not only prevent the damage or minimize it, also try to avoid it. But in this presentation we generally focused on how to minimize the damage or prevent the damage part of fire protection.
Generally he focussed 2 main topics and analyse their subtitles for explaning how fire protection systems emerg in the buildings.
These main topics were;
- Means of egress
- Compartmantation- Fire zone
- Building services
- Operating features
A means of egress by definition; the path that need to move building occupants to a safe place. From every location in a building a means of egress is required over which a person can move to gain access to the outside or to a place of safety
There is fire regulations that provided by municipality to ensure the buildings have standard safety condition against fire. Generally fire regulation regulates the exit discarge and the exit features in the building directly proportionate to user capacity and the scale of project.
The exit features that determined by fire regulation are;
- travel distance
- widths of the exit
- number of exits
- limitation on the travel path
- hand ralls-step width
For protecting the occupants from fire the building should have divided a fire zones and each zone must have its fire escape spaces. As a general principle of all fire escape, each fire escape must reach safely to outside of building. And in these fire escapes all doors must open to out. And the number of exits are also generally decided as
- for 50 people 2 exit
- for 500 people 3 exit
- for 1000 people 4 exit.
The function of building determines the needs and applications of fire protection system of a building but as ı said before the generall principles are same for each building. In the presentation we generally go over of these different applications and generally how it works by trough the examples.
To sum up, in the presentation Tanju Atalay shared lots of general information about the systems and how these systems emerged in a building by exemplifying the regulations and applications at the same time. And i should say these the visuals and informations were extremely important and helpful for us.
While we are approaching the end, we had our last preliminary jury. For this jury we are expected to have initial approach to 1/200 plan. While ı was working on th eplans, i tried to improve my design according to program’s need as well. Here my studies for prejury 3;
In this study ı try to understand the manner behind how old & new building are connected. Here some example that ı analyse ;
- İstanbul Deniz Müzesi
- Musée National des Beaux-Arts by OMA