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The minimum legislative level of safety for
structural fire design aims to provide an acceptable risk associated
with the safety of building occupants, fire fighters and people
in the proximity of the building. Levels of safety can be increased
to protect the building contents, the building superstructure,
heritage, business continuity, corporate image of the occupants
or owner, and the environmental impact.
There are a number of different approaches to ensure fire safety,
- A prescriptive approach (deemed-to-satisfy rules)
- A performance based approach to address a particular part
of the design with the rest of the design following a prescriptive
- A full performance based approach
The simple prescriptive design approach is assumed to provide
sufficient levels of life safety. Although easy to use the designer
cannot assess the actual levels of safety embedded within the
prescriptive rules. For some aspects of building design the restrictive
nature of the prescriptive rules make them impossible to use.
In this case a performance based approach can be used to design
a particular aspect of the building with the rest of the building
following a prescriptive design.
The performance based approach involves the assessment of three
basic components comprising the likely fire behaviour, heat transfer
to the structure and the structural response. The overall complexity
of the design depends on the assumptions and methods adopted
to predict each of the three design components.
A full performance based approach, which can be categorised
as an advanced design approach, has the following advantages:
- Generally more economical designs, compared to the simple
approaches, whilst still maintaining acceptable levels of life
- The construction of more innovative and complex buildings
which were not possible due to the restrictive nature of the
- A better understanding of the actual structural behaviour
of the building during a possible fire.
- The construction of more robust buildings due to the advanced
design approach allowing identification, and strengthening,
of any 'weak' links within the structure.
- Increasing the levels of safety, offered by the simple design
approaches, by incorporating advanced structural fire design
within a global fire strategy, to provide additional protection
to the building contents, the building superstructure, heritage,
business continuity, corporate image of the occupants or owner,
and/or the environmental impact.
In the following, the various design considerations are separately