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Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering

Construction industry slashes cost of fire protection in steel frame buildings

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 - saving an estimated £20 million over five years.

Case study

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.

£2 million saving icon

£20m saving

The saving in UK construction over five years.

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

The research produced a fire engineering design for multi-storey, steel frame buildings that 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

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.

40% costs reduction icon


The reduction in fire protection costs.

£60,000 saving icon

Saving per building

The saving per building using the Bailey Method.

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.