Structural fire engineering is concerned with predicting the behaviour and thus creating the ability to deliver the required performance of a building structure in the event of a fire. The traditional approach has been to follow prescriptive rules, but more advanced methods based on calculation have now been developed and used now for more than 10 years in practise.
Methods range from very simple approaches based on hand calculation or tabulated data, offering limited benefits, to sophisticated computer analysis which enables the full value of structural fire engineering to be realised. Such approaches to modelling structural behaviour are often complemented by consideration of more realistic fire scenarios than the standard fire.
Structural fire engineering can often lead to safer buildings, improved construction efficiency, lower loses, lower costs and improved fire fighter safety. The advantages of structural fire engineering can be summarized as:
- Improved safety – increased knowledge of the the real performance of structure enables a better assessment for means of escape and fire fighter safety.
- Cost savings – by reducing or eliminating applied protection.
- Reduction in construction program – by eliminating fire protection as a site activity.
- Reliability – unprotected structures do not have to rely on the proper application and maintenance of protection.
- Asset and property protection – through improved robustness of the structure in a fire.
- Business continuity – through the ability to specific the required performance to achieve the essential protection for a particular business.
- Reduced maintenance burden – unprotected structures require less maintenance.
- Flexibility of design – any structural layout, detail, protection system etc can be considered.
- Enhancement of the construction process – introduce fire protection where it can be quickly and easily installed, avoiding more difficult locations (e.g. where the may be a conflict with the facade installation).
Structural fire engineering delivers the possibility of lower costs, reduced spread of fire, improved fire fighter safety and the protection of business continuity. It is practical approach for structural engineers, fire engineers and other professionals. There are 3 essential steps:
- Be clear about the basic objective for adopting a fire engineering approach.
- Establish the best method of analysis.
- Consider the context within the overall fire strategy and agree acceptance criteria.