Construction industry slashes cost of fire protection in new steel frame buildings

The UK construction industry has saved £20 million over five years by adopting new building methods. The Bailey Method, which cuts the cost of fire protection measures in steel frame buildings by 40%, has been adopted for a number of buildings, with the fundamental principles underpinning the method also used in the design of several London landmarks including The Shard.

Until recently, designs for steel frame buildings focused on controlling the temperature of the steel rather than considering the structural behaviour of the building as a whole during a blaze.

Led by Professor Colin Bailey, School researchers developed new methods and designs that would ensure floors would not collapse even in intense heat. 


The saving in UK construction over five years.


The reduction in fire protection costs.


The saving per building using the Bailey Method.

The research produced a fire engineering design for multi-storey, steel frame buildings which eliminated the need for extra fire protection for up to 40% of steel floor beams. Structural fire engineering consultants can typically save £60,000 per building when applying this method; in the UK alone, constructors have saved an estimated £20 million in the past five years.

The Bailey Method, named for lead academic Professor Colin Bailey, is outlined in practical design guides and is incorporated into design software used widely within the construction and fire engineering sectors. The research team also created a 'one-stop shop' website in collaboration with government and industry, to provide impartial advice as well as training materials on structural fire engineering. Since 2008 the website has attracted almost 600,000 visitors.

In the UK alone, constructors have saved an estimated £20 million in the past five years.


Steel manufacturing company ArcelorMittal incorporated the Bailey Method into a design software product available in 17 languages. The company also distributed 2,500 design guides about the method in over 20 countries.

The Bailey Method has been followed for the construction of the BOBST building in Switzerland, the EVS Building in Belgium, the Geric Commercial Centre and BNP Bank Tower in France, as well as ArcelorMittal’s own Steel Centre.

Professor Bailey also provided expert fire engineering advice for several iconic London buildings including The Shard, The Pinnacle and Heron Tower.

The researchers also developed a software package for TATA Steel to design fire resistant concrete-filled steel tubular columns. The FIRESOFT product is now openly available for professional structural engineers and designers.

The software has recently been used by TATA Steel Tubes as part of its work on Broadgate Exchange and Bervis Marks in London. 

Research background

Traditional methods of protecting steel framed buildings against fire focused on controlling the temperature of the steel frame. No thought was given to the impact that fire has on the overall structure of the building, its performance and ultimate failure.

Professor Colin Bailey and Professor Yong Wang examined how fire affected the shape, strength and properties of steel structures.

Specifically, they explored tensile membrane action (TMA) in composite slab steel beam floor systems at high temperatures. TMA is a method of carrying load in a structure. It exploits the inherent strength of the floor and thus ensures that steel beams continue to carry heavy loads even at high temperatures. The Bailey Method is based on the enhanced understanding of TMA in steel structures. 

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