As an architect, you’re already well-aware of the staggering number of factors that play into the design and construction of a building. An appealing aesthetic design is always a goal, but there are certain safety concerns that should play a role in the design of any building or structure. Leaving this up to engineers to figure out can lead to significant changes in your original building design. One of the most important safety factors that play a role in building design is fire safety.
Every architect should be educated on the basics of fire safety’s role in building design to ensure that their final blueprint is going to be feasible, with very few, if any, changes in structure added by engineers. Keeping in mind fire safety basics, codes and regulations, and including fire safety materials and equipment will lead to a much safer building without you needing to drastically change your project down the line.
Familiarize Yourself with Fire Safety Regulations
The very first fire safety subject you should familiarize yourself with are the state regulations where your building will be constructed. Remember, even if you’re located in one state but are designing a building that will be in another, your plans must match the regulations required where the building will reside.
There are often similarities between state’s fire safety regulations and just sticking to the basics will be useful in building design planning. Some issues to consider are the required number of fire exit doors per room and per floor, firefighter and emergency access points in the building, location of sprinkler systems and water supply (i.e. fire hydrant outside the building), a potential hazardous area within the building, and the placement of fire and smoke alarms.
When starting off your research, it is recommended to check government regulation websites and safety websites, such as OSHA.
Consult a Fire Safety Experts for Reassurance
In regards to fire safety regulations and the effects of fire safety planning on building design, there is no better way of getting a clear answer than consulting a fire safety expert. A safety engineer can quickly point out areas of weakness in your blueprints and offer solutions that will allow you to meet standards that may take up hours of your own time trying to figure out.
Chances are a well-versed architect will be able to accurately and successfully include fire safety protection in a home or building on their own. However, very complex buildings require a more in-depth analysis to ensure they are properly designed in regards to fire safety emergencies. Paying a consultation fee and getting expert advice on your building’s design can save a significant amount of time, money and frustration in the future.
Consider the Materials and Equipment to Be Included
There are a plethora of different types of materials that can be used in modern-day construction, from the traditional options like concrete and timber to unusual options like recycled plastics or technologically-advanced textiles. Once you have an idea of what materials will be used to construct and outfit the building, you must consider whether they will add to fire safety.
Selection of materials and equipment will play a role in the purpose of the building as well. For example, sprinkler systems are not ideal as the only solution for a data center. The use of alternative fire safety systems will be required. Technology also has allowed for the creation and use of fire-retardant materials that can be used as surface treatments.
Certain safety equipment, such as smoke alarms, are a necessity in every building and residential home. It is also highly recommended architects include the use of smoke control curtains. Smoke Guard curtains and fire suppression systems can be added to buildings to control the spread of smoke and heat, allowing for better-controlled fires, safer evacuations, and more effective access for firefighters, which means faster extinguishments and less building damage. Expansive buildings with atriums, staircases, and elevators should have smoke control curtains included.
Keep Designs Simple but Effective
Including fire safety features in your building design doesn’t need to be a tedious, difficult process. Often times it is simple but effectively designed buildings that are the more successful and will require the least amount of changes by engineers.
As mentioned, working with a fire safety expert and having a consultation will lay any concerns you have to rest. That being said, becoming familiar with the foundations of fire safety and gaining education on how to include such features into your architectural designs is an invaluable knowledge that will help further your career.