Fire Safety in High- and Medium-rise Buildings

Fire safety in high- and medium-rise buildings requires a holistic approach. It begins with a careful and responsible building design with a performance-based approach, followed by rigorous execution and maintenance.  It also includes early detection and suppression systems, as well as prevention measures based on awareness and evacuation training.

In Europe, high- and medium-rise buildings are a common sight. The creativity of architects and increasing requirements for energy savings have resulted in a growing demand for performant construction products. Modern plastic products have therefore become more popular as they contribute to the sustainability of buildings.

Foam plastic insulation for instance offers an excellent thermal and mechanical performance, and despite being combustible they can be part of different systems meeting stringent fire performance requirements adapted to high- and medium-rise buildings if properly applied, installed and maintained.

 

Modern Housing Project in Malmo Sweden

Fire safety in high- and medium-rise buildings requires a holistic approach.

Rigorous testing of construction products, compliance and enforcement of regulation is key

The EU’s Construction Product Regulation (CPR) and the national regulations of each Member State are complementary to one another and provide a high level of fire protection and prevention across the Single Market. This regulation enables a common test and classification methodology for construction products, including plastics, for their reaction or resistance to fire, and for communicating their performance in an understandable format for users.

In order to assess fire safety in high- and medium-rise buildings, all components applied in a system should be tested and verified according to a harmonised European standard or European Assessment Document. Read more about building safety here.

Bench scale tests on products may not be sufficient to assess fire safety in high- and medium-rise buildings and additional system tests may be necessary, for example, several Member States apply large facade tests. An EC facade study to develop an EU harmonised facade system test standard based on the German and UK facade system tests is currently ongoing.

Equally important is the compliance with and enforcement of the regulation to ensure that installed systems and products correspond to the designed systems and that compliance remains intact during any maintenance and renovation.

 

Proper protection, early detection and suppression, and prevention measures are essential in high- and medium-rise buildings

The inability of occupants to smoothly and safely evacuate in case of a fire is a prime concern in medium- and high-rise buildings. The most effective solution to avoid such situations is to take a holistic approach, considering proper protection, early detection and suppression, and prevention:

  • Proper passive fire protection can be achieved through appropriate building design, such as adequate escape routes and compartmentation and by taking a system performance approach.
  • Early detection and suppression systems, such as smoke alarms and sprinklers are easily and readily implementable measures and can be very effective in high- and medium-rise buildings.
  • Prevention can be improved by assigning responsibilities to accredited professionals for fire safety of the building regarding planning, construction, renovation and maintenance. Awareness campaigns are also a very effective tool in improving fire safety within buildings and providing evacuation training for its occupants.

 

Emergency exit light sign

Proper passive fire protection can be achieved through appropriate building design, such as adequate escape routes.

 

Reliable detection systems are crucial in the event of a fire, as they can alert occupants that a fire has started in another part of the building. Without this alert, invaluable time for escape is lost and the fire escape routes can fill up with smoke from burning content.

Read more about improving fire safety here.