Holistic Fire Engineering

The fire industry has seen a broad shift from prescriptive based to performance-based codes. However,  there are still a issues to be addressed.
  • A performance based approach can potentially allow for a spectrum of solutions. However, what determines that the solution put forward is the most optimal in terms of efficiency, logistics and economics?
  • There remains confusion and mistrust regarding a performance-based approach. Those with the responsibility for approvals ask if the design solution is “code compliant” which is probably not the correct terminology given the flexibility in application.
  • A number of national regulations still do not adequately embrace performance-based solutions.
  • “This fire strategy does not consider extreme events”. What may have been once an extreme event may now be more commonplace. Should not a strategy consider everything that could realistically lead to a fire?
  • There is still insufficient buy-in from stakeholders. Project meetings can end up as a tussle between the fire engineer, architect, client, project managers, or enforcers.

These issues require the next evolution in fire protection engineering and design.  Paul Bryant, FireCubed LLP, has coined the term, “holistic fire engineering”, to describe this next evolution in fire engineering methodology.

Holistic fire engineering embraces the following principles:
1. To ensure that a fire engineered solution properly accounts for the real and perceived threats affecting the building, its occupancy and processes. Extreme events may or may not be included based upon a risk evaluation.
2. That we consider, fully, all objectives, and not just those applicable to national regulations. Note that comparison with national regulations will need to be included within the process.
3. We use all recognized means to develop holistic fire strategies.
4. Critical to holistic fire engineering is that the analysis and design process is controlled by a measurement system to allow full auditability and comparison at any stage of the process. Consequently, third parties can be provided with greater assurance that the solution is compliant with “holistic fire engineering” metrics.
5. The process and metrics must be transferable globally such that they will be the same wherever they are applied.