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Green Building Design – Fire Safety & Challenges for Fire Services…!!!

Posted by: Bhushan Avastthi | Posted on: October 6th, 2014

Experts suggest that green building designs do not take into consideration enhanced fire and life safety perils. Instead of that owners and residents of green buildings need to be conscious of the fact that green building designs may create earlier hasty challenges, which had major impact & direct value on construction selections. A primary probe about which organizations might stand accountable for fire and life security measures, maximum facility managers may name National Fire Protection Association or the International Code Council.


Not to forget the incident of retailing giant “Target”. The fire at Bakersfield, California – Target store in year 2009, compelled professional organizations, fire-protection engineers, and code writers to reinvent their code and construction challenges for green buildings – especially those which comprehended how life-security provisions were taken into consideration for green constructions.

The incident taught firefighters at the photovoltaic collection on the building’s roof, that even after detaching the electrical mains; the solar panels were still invigorated, making it an additional challenge to handle, apart from the fire.Armin Wolski, Associate Principal at Arup and head of San Francisco fire engineering group, quotes“The switch for the PV panels might be on the top of the roof building creating problems for the firefighters in need to shut down the building electricity.” The chief problem with green building designs is that the commitment sometimes crosses heads with the customary building code.

Facts and Figures From NFPA Journal – National Fire Protection Association :

  • 14,000 + LEED-certified buildings across globe & about 35,000 more registered for certification in year 2012
  • LEED-certified commercial projects globally increased from 12 in year 2000 to about 3,700 in the year 2011
  • Not with standing this development, Govt. does not have statistics on incidents concerning green buildings or green building elements, as National Fire Incident Reporting System, the largest fire database in U.S., does not assemble this data.

Brian Meacham, Author of report Safety Challenges of Green Buildings, quotes “The path of greening the building was taken forward without exhaustive investigation of latent unintentional safety concerns.” He further said, “There does not look as if there is any comprehensive research conducted on probable threats, level of risk, and alleviation strategies.The report also specifies about 80 green components comprising of bamboo flooring, photovoltaic roof panels to spray-applied foam insulation and rates their level of concern as low, medium or high risk based on the potential threats to occupants and emergency respondents. It is noteworthy that green roofs are of the source for fire load or spread if not appropriately hydrated and are rated moderate.

  • Roof-mounted photovoltaic panels that detain solar energy might influence a firefighter’s aptitude to vent the building in the course of fire and they are rated as moderate.
  • If these systems are not suitably depowered, they can be a cause of risk of electrocution which has been given high rating.
  • It also needs to be taken into consideration that lightweight, engineered lumber also got a high rating for its propensity to miss the mark more swiftly than the customer lumber when split wide-open in fire.

Precautions towards Fire security challenges in green building designs:

Performance-Based Design Metrics :

25% of experts in green building design perceive that if performance-based design metrics are implemented it will result in preventing fire security issues creeping up in the near future for green buildings. There are different experts who endorse facility managers accountable for new construction with green design components to utilize performance-based design metrics.

Chris Jelenewicz, Engineering Program Manager at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, quotes “Performance-based design identifies the level of safety that is to be delivered without ascertaining precisely how it is to be achieved.” He further says, “Besides performance, design requires more engineering work. But the results are yet to be seen as it ensures well-organized design centered on building’s exclusive features.

Performance-Based Codes :

15% of experts believe that implementation of performance-based codes can help in preventing fire security issues for green building. Code-compliance can become a pain especially in atriums. The only solution for becoming code compliant is to meet or exceed prevailing codes without essentially following the prescriptive elements of the code. These performance-based codes can be utilized as an outstanding instrument to resolve conflicts between progressive green design elements and prescriptive codes.

Armin Wolski, Associate Principal at a leading Engineering Group at San Francisco, quotes “A meticulous design constituent might not fit in with the letter of the code, however for a given utilization or commitment, frequently the element can be scrutinized from a performance perspective and displayed to bump into the intent of the code.” The most significant aspect of life-safety engineers and consultants is to depict that green design can meet or surpass the intent of the code without essentially utilizing the prescriptive methodologies of the code.

Robert Solomon, Division Manager for Building and Life Safety at the National Fire Protection Association, quotes “It is noteworthy to have goals and objectives in place while trying to prevent fire security challenges from creeping up in green building design. The most important thing is to gauge the equipment arrangement which can result in getting break-even if not better performance in accord to prevailing rules.”

Market Acceptance and Replication Probabilities : 

There have been lots of unconventional solutions that have been implemented in green designs for resolving customary building problems. One of the prime examples of this is a new building in Dubai which integrates a wind turbine as a chunk of high-rise office building.

  • An 80-storey building has its base in the structure of the building at about 40th or 50th storey of the wind turbine. Due to the fact that it is not retrofit turbine or something that you can integrate on to the roof, a new set of apprehensions arises in the design.
  • There can be apprehensions about ignition source, long wind-down period of turbines, and inserting a braking system on the building.
  • There can be other apprehensions related to depowering the detached device with the PV array atop the Target store in Bakersfield. Even if you are able to detect the switch to neutralize the PV panels or wind turbines is situated at the first-floor mechanical room it cannot crack all the problems. For example; an array may endure to be motorized between devices, giving supplementary apprehensions to the first respondents.

With the aid of performance-based design, a building design is centered on goals and objectives that are set by the building’s stakeholders. So the stakeholders can detect shielding the environment as a performance-based aim. With the backing of performance-based design, it is possible to meet the stakeholder’s goals and objectives in the most proficient ways for green building design” concludes Chris Jelenewicz, Engineering Program Manager at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

May be you like to read more about : Different Green Building Practices that give a new Dimension to Environmental Friendly Construction

About Author:

Bhushan Avsatthi

Bhushan Avsatthi is a senior manager, consultant, BIM expert and a green building advisor with more than 15 years of industry experience. Bhushan imbibes the prophecy of efficient and prudent use of energy in his day to day life and advices his team to do so as well. He is also involved in green initiatives like nonprofit tree plantation project and promotes using cycles for commuting small distances. Bhushan, handles a team of architects, Structural and MEP engineers, LEED consultants and Energy modeling experts.