Bethesda, MD — Society demands that the buildings it occupies be safe from the threat of fire. As a result, a significant portion of the cost of modern building construction is devoted to fire protection features. Fire protection engineers are the professionals who assure that these features all work together as a system to protect life and property, and to preserve continuity of operation.
As a way of defining how fire protections engineers assure that buildings are safe from fire, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) has updated its Position Statement on "The Role of the Fire Protection Engineers in the Construction Design Process."
Fire protection engineers, as part of a building's design/construction team, analyze how buildings are used, how fires start, how fires grow, and how fire and smoke affect people, buildings and property. They use the latest technologies to design systems that control fires, alert people to danger and provide means for escape.
"In addition to protecting lives and property, good fire protection design will preserve business continuity," says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. "For example, the One Meridian Plaza fire in Philadelphia that occurred in 1991 resulted in the building never being re-opened and the Interstate Bank Building fire in Los Angeles that occurred in 1988 resulted in the building being out of service for six months."
The SFPE Position Statement also stresses how the guidance of a qualified and experienced fire protection engineer on the construction team, can save time and expense. Fire protection engineers can interpret a variety of applicable fire and building codes with an understanding of how the building and its components function as an integrated fire and life safety system. This enables the fire protection engineer to recommend the most cost effective building fire protection features.
Moreover, fire and building codes are now providing more options for performance-based design options. This gives design professionals more flexibility that will lead to the development of more innovative building designs.
"Especially with performance-based design, fire protection engineers can find solutions that embrace the architect's vision while maintaining an adequate level of life safety," adds Jelenewicz. "At the same time, performance-based design requires more engineering effort. That is why it is essential that a performance-based fire protection analysis be performed by someone with a comprehensive understanding of fire and the appropriate engineering tools."
After 9/11, the critical role that fire protection engineers play in improving life safety was reinforced. As part of the investigation into collapse of the World Trade Center, in 2005 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released 30 recommendations aimed at improving safety in tall buildings for occupants and first responders. Recommendation Number 28 of this report reinforces the need to have fire protection engineers on a design team to provide the standard of care for buildings employing innovative or unusual fire safety features.
To find out more about how fire protection engineers design ways to make people and property safe from fire or to view the SFPE Position Statement, go to: www.sfpe.org.
About Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Organized in 1950, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers is the professional society for engineers involved in the field of fire protection engineering. The purposes of SFPE are to advance the science and practice of fire protection engineering, maintain a high ethical standing among its members and foster fire protection engineering education. SFPE's worldwide members include engineers in private practice, in industry and in local, regional and national government. Chapters are located in Canada, China, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United States. For more information, go to www.sfpe.org.