Fire is powerful, and like any other catastrophic event, it all depends on how we deal with it. When dealing with a fire incident, you are dealing with something very invasive than can spread with a blink of an eye. In the occurrence of fire, it is tough for many people to remain calm and think of a logical escapism plan. Fires spread very fast, giving people an average of two minutes to think of a strategy on how to get out safely and maybe saving a few valuables around. But let’s classify types of fire first:
- Primary fires are the type of fires that occur in a property that is occupied by residents, i.e. houses and flats, involving people and properties.
- Dwelling fires are fires that happen in residential and non-residential buildings; residential buildings include hotels, nursing homes, student houses whereas non-residential buildings include offices, shopping malls, restaurants, public spaces, warehouses etc.
- Secondary fires are generally small outdoor fires where not many people are involved in it. Mostly these include grassland fires, woodland fires, corps fires, vehicle fires and fires in derelict buildings.
Designing with people’s safety in mind
When it comes to fire incidents, most of the casualties occur due to smoke and not from the actual fire. In the UK, there were 253 fire-related fatalities in 2018/2019 recording the lowest number from 1981/1982. The responsibility of a fire evacuating strategy lies solely in the hands of an excellent architectural plan. All buildings need to be designed with a decent level of fire safety that would initially minimise the risk of heat and smoke. The fumes evaporating in the air become classified, dependent on the type of fire and the type of gas.
According to the Fire Safety Advice Centre, here’s how to classify fires:
- Class A: Fires that involve organic solids such as paper, wood, etc.
- Class B: Fires that involve flammable liquids.
- Class C: Fires that involve flammable gasses.
- Class D: Fires that involve burning metals.
- Electrical fires: These types of fires can’t be marked in the letter E as it might confuse with an electric spark, moreover they can fall under any classification as long as there is an electric current.
- Class F: Fires that involve fats and fryers.
An architect’s job goes beyond developing a plan from concept to a full design development plan, it requires many skills, but among those skills is adopting a critical way of thinking. Everyone builds for the future but anticipating a hazard in order to pre-avoid it and get a step ahead requires a unique set of skills. The person responsible for the project should be able to evaluate possible solutions and capable of identifying the potentiality of issues on-site or on the project.
Crucial thoughts that must be considered in fire safety design
Residential and commercial buildings are often jammed, and movement is regarded as a constant state in there. Hence, all architects should always design with consideration to building codes providing the baseline of safety and security. This part of the job role for every architect tie multiple entries that should all be considered and coordinated. Considering building materials’, each building material has its reacting pattern and resistance time for fires:
- Pine mouldings are the softest kind of wood and are the fastest type to interact with fire and the material itself adds up to the fire.
- Fibre-board mouldings (MDF) is considered a durable architectural material with that could last for an average of 18 years; however, its density level is medium making it interact less intense than pine mouldings.
- Solid Oak mouldings are often used to deliver an exquisite interior look and considered high-end installations. Standing out for being a little denser and harder makes this option more immune than pine.
- Vinyl mouldings are extremely inexpensive and extremely strong and durable, holding a high position when it comes to fire resistance as it is electrically non-conductive.
- Steel mouldings are hugely mistaken to be known as an expensive material, although it only costs about $1 /foot and the high end (bronze) costs about $8-$10/foot square. Steel mouldings are considered fire-proof heroes among the rest of the materials.
How to master running an evacuation wave smoothly
Many industries fear the threat of facing a situation where all the people have to run for their lives. Plenty of sectors put fire safety as a priority, therefore including a fire protection engineer as part of safety control team with adequate experience at all design phases is a must. All evacuation scenarios are terrifying but it is more severe when it occurs within the premise of a hospital, an airport, or a school. With the significant numbers of civilians inside and the overwhelming position they all be at, it’s only logical that a panic state erupts.
If a human being is not aware of the exit plan and was not being briefed ahead, the crisis might arise quickly. Knowing an action plan to your wonders could keep you safe and calm during an emergency.
An exit route ideally consists of three parts; an exit access where it is the central part that leads to the exit itself. An exit which is the tunnel or the area that has much room and facilitates safe travel towards the outer part of the building. Last part is the exit discharge that is solely responsible for the getaway and linked directly to the open space and ends at the street. Further, the design and construction requirements are a vital point for any evacuation plan; all exit discharges must be large enough to reflect the size of the building without neglecting the ceiling height which should be at least 7 feet and 6 inches high. All exit routes must be unlocked from inside, directing towards outside and free from any electrical devices. Also, all exits must provide self-closing doors from outside and should include non-slippery flooring material and all doors that are not emergency exits should be marked as not an exit.
A great example -Breaking Red- that stands out when it comes to building according to the standard safety guidance is a school in Spain. MLMR Arquitectos developed this school emergency exit with an area of 30.0 square metres. It is an attachment to an already-existing building where it has a unique required installation that accommodates the presence of disabled students, and in aim to improve the evacuation plan an elevator was added to the staircase of the existing building with a sturdy concrete foundation and is entirely metallic and self-supporting.
Humanity has been aching enough from natural hazards and we all are bound to be kind to one another and consider new visions on how to deliver a safe state of mind and assure that further actions and investments are always needed.