The 2017 revision of the UAE Fire & Life Safety Code has reinforced the importance of fire safety across the built environment from a design, construction and operational perspective. The engineering and architectural community play an important role to ensure buildings are designed to meet the code requirements and lay the foundations for the building operators to manage the on-going safety of the buildings fire & life safety systems to protect people, property and the environment from the effects of a fire incident.
As we move forward towards the Expo 2020 all stakeholders must not forget the importance of the Dubai brand within the international community as it has quickly risen into the Top 10 City brands in the world (Source: www.theguardian.com).
The integration of fire engineering and the development of a robust fire strategy remains a critical element within the design process particularly in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. With many high profile projects across multiple sectors in the region design teams must ensure that their project will satisfy the clients requirements including future legacy use(s), the approvals process including the operational needs of the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
Many projects have international design teams based within the region delivering elements of the project from their overseas offices – many being familiar with design and planning stages that are adopted within their native country. A Plan of Work describes the activities from appraising the client’s requirements through to post construction. The stages are also used in the appointment of architects and help to identify consultant services and indicate the resource and fee total by Work Stage.
The choice of procurement route has a fundamental influence on how different Work Stages proceed. It is worth noting that some work plans were originally developed to reflect the needs of Traditional contract forms. The subsequent development of alternative contract forms such as PFI, BSF and partnered contracts means that planning stages don’t necessarily fit precisely with these alternative contract forms and should reflect local and regional forms of procurement and contract.
Many models for the building design and construction process have been developed on the international stage that provide a shared framework for the organisation and management of building projects. These models include but are not limited to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) providing a process map and a management tool, and important work stage reference points used in a multitude of contractual and appointment documents and best practice guidance (see Table 1 below).
The project “planning cycle” brings together all of the stages of project into a coherent, unified process. Key stages within the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 (last edited January 2017) include:
Stage 0 – Strategic Definition
Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief
Stage 2 – Concept Design
Stage 3 – Developed Design
Stage 4 – Technical Design
Stage 5 – Construction
Stage 6 – Handover & Close Out
Stage 7 – In Use
Note: Although the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 does not include a stage corresponding to Stages G, H and J of the RIBA Outline Plan of Work 2007, which relate to the tendering activities associated with traditional procurement, it includes these activities within the Procurement task bar.
Key stakeholders within a project will normally contain the following members;
- Client advisers
- Project Lead
- Lead Designer
- Building Services Engineer
- Civil and Structural Engineer
- Cost Consultant
- Construction Lead
- Contract Administrator
- Health & Safety Adviser
Technical input will no doubt be required from specialists including fire, security, acoustics, environmental etc. but at what point/stage should input be received from a fire engineer and a fire strategy be developed? All too often this input is left until problems arise during the design process or approvals are required from the AHJ. Early engagement of a qualified fire engineer on a project is critical and can assist in reducing overall project risks considerably. This early engagement will allow a consistent approach to fire safety and fire engineering throughout all project work stages until approvals are given by the AHJ.
- Fully consider the fire safety requirements of the premises/organisation and occupants
- Widen fire precautions considerations to include life safety, property protection, business continuity and environmental considerations
- Review requirements of fire system design criteria prior to design
- Ensure the fire protection system designs support the strategy
- Provide a framework for all future fire safety and protection works
- Provide a framework for integrating fire protection measures in multi-occupancy or associated premises
The fire strategy is a key design document which provides guidance to the design team from concept design through each of the planning stages. Depending on the project type and size the fire strategy may be required as part of the `Master Plan’, particularly to ensure Civil Defence operational response requirements for access and water supplies are fully considered. As the design develops the fire strategy should provide a single document containing:
- The fire strategy statement
- The evacuation strategy
- The fire fighting strategy
- The fire and smoke control strategy
- The fire protection strategy
- The fire safety (management) strategy
It should be remembered that the fire strategy is a `living’ document for future reference by the building owner and occupiers. The operational fire safety management of a building is often overlooked by design teams, hence the fire strategy is a key document for the development of operational plans for the safe operation of the building in use. It should be easily accessible for future reference particularly if material changes are made to the building or if there is a change of use or occupant characterization that would fundamentally change the overall risk profile of the building.
To co-ordinate the fire engineering requirements of a project in tandem with the design planning stages the Fire Engineering process contained within BS 7974: 2001 ‘Application of Fire Safety Engineering principles to the Design of Buildings’ can be implemented as an appropriate framework to control and identify fire safety design issues to be addressed using fire engineering techniques.
This is however, only one method of achieving compliance with the standards. Fire engineering is a continually developing field with a large degree of international cooperation. A document that aims to embrace the best practice worldwide is the ‘International Fire Engineering Guidelines’, jointly published by the Australian Building Codes Board, the National Research Council of Canada, the International Code Council of the United States of America, and the Department of Building and Housing, New Zealand. Fire engineering designs can be complex and generally require extensive use of engineering judgement. Therefore, to assist AHJ’s and Fire and Rescue Services in carrying out an assessment of alternative fire engineered solutions, it would be prudent to assess the commonality and differences between the two documents to ensure that the guidance given encompasses best practice worldwide.
Within BS 7974 the Qualitative Design Review (QDR) is a robust method of assisting in the project design process by reviewing the Architectural Design and Occupant Characteristics including:
- Building characterization
- Environmental influences
- Occupant characterization
- Management of fire safety
The QDR Process will establish fire safety objectives for the project and include:
- Life safety
- Loss prevention
- Business Continuity
- Environmental protection
Within the QDR process the design team will identify fire hazards & possible consequences and assess the following:
- Ignition sources
- Combustible contents
- Materials of construction
- Nature and activities in the building
- General building layout
- Any unusual factors
Having established fire hazards and possible consequences the design team will establish trial fire safety design (possible scenario’s and impact) including:
- Type of fire (i.e. retail, office, train etc.)
- Type, size and location of the ignition
- Automatic suppression
- Fire compartmentation
- Building ventilation system, etc.
It is important to engage with the AHJ during the initial stages of a project and an invitation to participate in the process is strongly recommended particularly in assisting with identifying acceptance criteria and methods of analysis which can include:
- Comparison against previous benchmarks
- UAE Fire & Life Safety Code, British Standards, NFPA and other international codes of practice etc.
- Performance based – engineering analysis and testing
The on-going development and investment in infrastructure and property in the Middle East along with the Expo 2020 projects in the UAE will assist in the realisation of strategic plans for the region. The selection of a suitable planning model for a project and the selection and retention of a core design team and specialists is at the heart of a successful project. The early engagement and input from a qualified fire engineer can enhance the delivery of a safe and cost effective scheme and assist with the approvals process.
For more information, go to www.ife.org.uk or www.burohappold.com/what-we-do/specialisms/fire-engineering/