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Design Introduction

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, which includes:

  • 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 based approach
  • 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 safety.
  • The construction of more innovative and complex buildings which were not possible due to the restrictive nature of the simple rules.
  • 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 discussed:

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