When retrofitting an installation, renovating a facility or designing a new project, the definition of a structure’s safety level with regard to fire hazards is an important factor. Assessing this safety level can be difficult on projects which prove to be less than straightforward (architecture of the building, configuration of the process, cost of the operation, etc.).
The implementation of a fire protection system in public access buildings or industrial premises is governed not only by regulatory requirements (standards, bylaws, etc.), but also contractual requirements (insurers’ rules and recommendations contained in reference documents: APSAD, NFPA).
In most cases, these requirements apply to conventional and traditional construction scenarios and activities and are based on lessons learned. This DESCRIPTIVE approach to fire safety is therefore mainly bound by obligations of means, without concluding in the actual effectiveness of the devices under specific project conditions or justifying the corresponding investment.
Fire Safety Engineering (FSE): an effective solution.
The purpose of FSE studies is to provide a specific analysis of the project that, on the one hand, considers the design measures specific to the structure while, on the other hand, taking on board the influence of human factors, the activity covered by the building or the effectiveness of the prevention and protection systems implemented. Fire Safety Engineering introduces this data into digital models covering smoke extraction, building evacuation, or the fire resistance of structures in order to define the destruction time of a structure and to compare it against the time needed to evacuate people in the event of a fire. It therefore quantifies the safety level of a site by measuring its effects.
This PERFORMANCE-RELATED approach is therefore bound by obligations of result. This means that the design phase begins by setting objectives, i.e. performance criteria that will ensure the protection of people, the environment and property.
Engineering studies relating to the fire behaviour of structures, smoke extraction and building evacuation are used to model real fire scenarios and to determine whether the various properties of the project are adequate to meet the objectives set and guarantee a satisfactory safety level.
A set of specifications is drawn up at the end of the FSE study, once the results of the modelling have been interpreted, to identify the various means to be implemented to achieve the requisite safety level:
- Technical means – Special design measures for the structure (fireproof walls, for example), optimised processes (choice of equipment, safeguarding of the installation), efficient fire detection and protection devices, upkeep and maintenance instructions, etc.
- Organisational means – Special operating instructions, implementation of an Internal Operations Plan, etc.
- Human means – Knowledge of the rules to be adopted in an emergency, regular training, use of specific personal protection equipment, etc.
These measures are submitted and integrated into the project to meet the fire safety objectives and optimise the investment.
Fire Safety Engineering has the methodology, digital models and tools required to provide a concrete, all-encompassing analysis, adapted to the fire hazards of a site (public-access building, high-rise building or facility covered by environmental protection legislation), with the aim of assisting industrial companies, architects and general design consultancies with their projects (renovation, new buildings, process optimisation or modification, etc.).