Buildings don’t just happen; they are meticulously planned with processes and procedures that most people are unaware of. While building contractors would love to just wave a wand and have a building site demolished, refurbished or completed, we don’t live in a world of magic. We do, however, live in a world of collaboration. Specialists from every niche in the building industry, from “idea-ists” or clients, architects and skilled labourers to project managers and even cleaning specialists, all coming together like a carefully arranged orchestra, to make the impossible happen: to turn an idea into a building reality.
Among this gang of experts are boards of compliance that weigh in along the way to ensure that the structure is safe for people and the environment, in accordance to the latest building standards and regulations. While building safety is a massive industry and has experienced a high degree of evolution and refinement over the years, fire safety hasn’t. The history of fire safety shows that building safety regulators only really pay attention following a major incident or a serious near miss. It is unfortunate, but there are many other factors that impact this, such as the development of fire protection system technology and innovation which can only develop as fast as new materials and inventions are created.
There is one way that we can focus on making safer buildings without the reliance on innovation in the fire protection system space; and that is making buildings safer from the very beginning. Architects, drafters and building designers are artists in their own right. They push themselves and the boundaries of what’s possible within the confines of a restricted space and building regulations to make architectural marvels.
However, as with every single area of expertise, there are gaps where other specialists come in after the initial drafts. Architects are not fire protection specialists; they have an acute understanding of the laws of physics and building safety, but not necessarily fire safety and the many fire protection systems available in the industry. While they would have a general understanding, their first thought when looking at a drawing would not be if the building is compartmented to contain a blaze; that would be the immediate thought of a fire protection specialist or fire fighter. This is why continuous education is so important in the building industry for all fields. Knowledge is most literally power, since architects, building designers and drafters who have in-depth knowledge of building safety, building regulations and fire protection systems, can provide a higher level of service to their clients.
So how can architects help with fire safety?
Compartmentation is one of the many ways that fires can be slowed down and contained. In many of today’s commercial and high-rise residential buildings compartmentation can attempt to “trap” a fire in that area of the building, so that it allows occupants time to evacuate and hopefully not engulf the entire building before fire fighters arrive on the scene. This is already done commercially, but not all building designs take this into account and that’s a significant method of fire protection that can be done at the design stage.
Understanding fire protection systems in general will arm building designers with the knowledge to design safer buildings should a fire start. By taking these systems such as sprinklers into account, the design is already drafted with this in mind, without a fire safety expert making these recommendations for adjustments.
Fire escape routes for domestic residential buildings aren’t exactly common, unless they are commercially driven buildings. For instance, you wouldn’t find a standard house with a fire escape route, which is alarming since such a large percentage of fires are house fires, and very often starting in the kitchen.
Going beyond fire escape routes is the general layout of a property. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. The faster a blaze is extinguished, the lower the damage to the property, which means a layout that can allow emergency services in and out of a building quickly is most ideal; not just for fire fighting but also to allow swift rescue of those who might be trapped in the building.
Materials are a hot topic, especially since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Building designers should take these materials into consideration, not just for reducing the spread of a fire but also for the ease of access for first responders. Architects and building designers can work with fire safety experts to determine what combination of materials are the least combustable but also create the least amount of toxic smoke to reduce risks in the event of a fire.
Who is Onetrace?
With all of the new regulation around the fire protection industry, Onetrace was developed to keep fire protection operatives compliant, in line with current accreditation standards, and organised, while providing transparency and traceability with reduced administrative work and true remote working.
If you’re ready to see what all of the fuss is about, all you need to do is simply get in touch or request a demo. If you’re not ready to commit, that’s okay - you can try Onetrace completely free for 14 days with zero obligation or commitment. No fuss, no hassle.