The stake of the Energy Transition for Buildings – Fire Safety Competency

The stake of the Energy Transition for Buildings - Fire Safety Competency

The stake of the Energy Transition for Buildings - Fire Safety Competency

About the European Fire Safety Week 2020

For the second edition of the European Fire Safety Week, the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) teamed up with the Modern Building Alliance, Europacable and the FEEDS to address the stake of fire safety of buildings in the context of the energy transition. The webinar boasted more than 365 registrations, attracted by the high level expertise of the speakers announced in the programme.



Presentations and biographies of speakers



Outcome: Graphic Recording


The energy transition and renovation wave are two major elements of the EU Green Deal. Both will enhance climate protection and economic recovery while improving the quality of life of EU citizens.

The energy transition is bringing structural change to global energy production and consumption. In this context, the building stock has a central position. Its sustainable transformation will include the electrification (e-mobility, solar panels, domestic batteries, etc.) and decentralisation of energy production.

The trend towards higher energy efficiency, sustainability and circularity involves the use of new materials, new construction systems and new construction methods. However, this transformation will necessarily introduce new fire risks, as electrical defaults are already a major cause of fires. See the presentation of Krzysztof Biskup about the context of the energy transition and impact for fire safety.

As mentioned by Member of the European Parliament Željana Zovko, in her opening address, the energy transition should happen in a safe way which requires the improvement the role of fire safety engineers. She suggested that the new European Bauhaus initiative is an opportunity for such development. MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho, both an engineer and academic, agreed with this statement and stressed that designing sustainable, affordable and safe buildings requires skills. She highlighted the need to think not only at the building level but also at the urban level and take benefits of the developments in CFD modelling.

The message is clear: Fire safety must neither fall behind nor impede the energy transition but rather address its complexity to accompany it.

Fire safety is a no-brainer and it is obvious that no one wants to put it aside. However, most of us have forgotten that fire safety is still a risk in our daily life. We rely on ‘someone somewhere’ to take care of it.

When it comes to ensuring the fire safety of buildings, the involvement of competent professionals with clear roles and responsibilities during the design, construction and maintenance phases of a building is crucial to accompany the safe evolution of building stock. The involvement of fire safety engineers is not sufficiently common practice and recent tragic events have shown that a lack of compliance with fire safety can have serious consequences. Major Karol Mojski highlighted good practice from Poland where fire experts are accredited and have to pass exams to prove their competencies.


To avoid tragic fires, especially due to energy transition processes, sooner or later each country will have to include accredited fire safety professionals with clearly defined roles and responsibilities to its fire protection system

Major Karol Mojski, head of Fire Protection section, National Headquarters of the State Fire Service


The regular inspection of electrical and fire safety installation is similarly an element that can make a considerable difference in preventing fires and limiting their consequences. See the presentation of Gary Parker to know more about the best practices in the UK regarding electrical inspections and the Electricity at Work Regulations.

The Modern Building Alliance requested USB Marketing to clarify various questions focused on the involvement of external expertise on fire safety issues by surveying 835 architects. The survey also compiled answers related to the responsibility of fire safety within architectural projects. The presentation was eye-opening as it emphasised how the roles and responsibilities for fire safety are not always clear.

Check Quentin’s presentation to know more. The Architect Survey report is available here


Dialogue with Experts

The discussion with experts highlighted the need to involve policymakers, academics, architects, fire engineers, fire services, industry and various other experts to ensure that fire safety adequately accompanies the renovation wave and energy transition.

‘The need to educate more fire safety engineers is stronger than ever, given the worldwide faster(er) evolution in building trends (including novel architecture and materials), urbanisation, energy transition, climate challenges, sustainable issues…’

Prof. Bart Merci, UGent, Director of the International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering


Fire safety in buildings is a complex issue, becoming increasingly more complex with new technologies related to the energy transition. Fire engineers confirmed that knowledge and competency to manage this complexity are available. However, not all architects are familiar with this complexity and sometimes do not know that their design can jeopardise a fire safety strategy. As highlighted by MEP Carlos Zorrinho in his conclusion, the question cannot be resolved by prescribing specific technical solutions that would work in all situations. Rather, it is better to ensure we have the right engineers to apply the best solution in each situation, to meet the fire safety objective.

Amani Habbal, with her double hat as both an architect and fire safety engineer, observed that architects do not have the necessary educational background to design fire-safe buildings. Collaboration between all professionals to complement the architect’s work will enhance safer, more aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly, feasible projects.


Jimmy Jönsson explained that Fire Safety Engineering is still a young disciple and lacks professional recognition. Ensuring the fire safety of all building designs requires a holistic view and intersections with all disciplines. As all buildings are singular, it requires a performance-based design.


The European Commission via the Joint Research Centre is also working on the issue of fire safety in buildings. Adamantia Athanasopoulou presented the current running initiative for the development of a fire safety engineering approach to be incorporated in fire safety regulations of EU Member States. This work is supported by a Fire Safety Engineering Expert Network and feeds into the Fire Information Exchange Platform.

MEP Carlos Zorrinho conclusion emphasised the need to develop knowledge and competency to manage the complexity of fire safety. Ensuring the involvement of the appropriate fire safety expertise into the process is key. Mr Zorrinho called on the Commission to study how the EU Member States are addressing fire safety roles, responsibilities and competencies during the design, construction and operation of buildings. Such an analysis would help to identify the gaps in research and education that can be addressed and filled with EU support.


Main conclusions

Even if fire safety in building codes is something dealt with at national level, we believe that there is added value to discussing it at the EU level. Expertise should be brought together, best practices shared, identification of gaps addressed together. As mentioned by Adamantia Athanasopoulou from the JRC, the EU can support the development of competencies with funding for research and education.

After a fruitful discussion during the webinar, we recognise that fire safety knowledge and competencies exist and are confident that involving more fire experts and engineers at the right point in time to ensure the fire safety of our buildings is possible, despite all the challenges.

Next steps

Following Mr Zorrinho’s proposal, EuroFSA will connect with the European Commission to discuss launching a study on national practices that will examine how fire safety quality is currently ensured during the design, construction and use of buildings, while similarly exploring the necessary roles, responsibilities and competencies of professionals. This study should include the participation of various type of stakeholders and should help develop a roadmap for the development of fire safety knowledge and competency.


Missed the Webinar? 

The magic of the current context is that we can easily record a webinar. Feel free to watch and shared it!

About the survey

In June 2020, the Modern Building Alliance commissioned the USP Marketing Consultancy to launch a survey targeted at architects from eight European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK. The survey aimed to discover how fire safety competencies are considered during the building design phase. A sample of 835 architects, working in offices composed of at least two architects excluding smaller projects, responded. The majority are primarily focused on residential buildings and engaged in both new builds and renovations.

Consult the full report




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835 architects consulted to measure their request for fire safety competencies

835 architects consulted to measure their request for fire safety competencies

19 November 2020


In June 2020, the Modern Building Alliance commissioned USP Marketing Consultancy to launch a survey targeted at architects from eight European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK). The survey aimed to discover how fire safety competencies are considered during the building design phase. A sample of 835 architects, working in offices composed of at least two architects excluding smaller projects, responded. The majority are primarily focused on residential buildings and engaged in both new builds and renovations.


Consult the full report


“Fire safety must neither lag behind, nor impede the renovation wave. It must accompany it. That’s why we must define clear role and responsibilities for fire safety during projects and ensure the involvement of the adequate level of fire expertise. Our architects survey shows that there is room for improvement and that an EU wide analysis would be useful” 

Quentin de Hults, Executive Chair of the Modern Building Alliance


Building design is a complex undertaking that must combine various expertise. As such, architects can request the involvement of specific experts, such as fire engineers, energy experts or sustainability experts, in their project.


Fire safety in particular is a complex issue requiring competent professionals with clear roles and responsibilities to be involved during a building’s design, construction and maintenance phases. Recent tragic events have highlighted how a lack of consideration for fire safety or a lack of compliance with fire safety regulations can have dire consequences.


Academic analysis has emphasized the need to improve fire safety competency and increase the involvement of fire safety expertise in building design and inspection. Moreover, studies have under-scored the need to improve the definition of competencies, enhance education and accreditation and establish a legal framework for the involvement of accredited fire safety professionals in building design and inspections (more information and references available here).


Our Analysis


We assume the involvement of a dedicated fire expert during the design phase of a construction or renovation project is indicative of the consideration paid to fire safety. Fire safety experts help architects ensure the necessary level of fire safety, along with all other safety and performance aspects, required in a project. With this in mind, we see room for improvement in the level of involvement of dedicated fire experts, particularly in housing renovations, as they are currently less involved than energy experts. This is crucial in light of the fact that most fire fatalities happen in residential buildings and that the EU planned renovation wave will particularly tackle housing.

The significant national differences suggest that analysis of the situation in each country regarding the legal requirements, the level of architects’ fire safety knowledge and the availability or recognition of fire experts would produce intriguing results. There is a need for further analysis and discussion on what type of projects fire experts should be involved and what level of competency fire experts and architects need.

This should be in tandem with fire safety responsibility. While allowing for EU countries to have various models of fire safety, fire safety responsibility should be clearly designated, which seems currently not the case in some countries.


Consult the full report




Publication: the B.I.O. factsheets

Publication: the B.I.O. factsheets

13 November 2020

A year ago, we introduced the B.I.O. framework, an original framework with a comprehensive and structured list of elements for the consideration of Member States in their regulatory approach to ensuring fire-safe buildings. This framework aligns with the EU subsidiarity principle and aids in structuring the exchange of information and best practices between Member States within the European Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP), established by the EU Commission in October 2017.

Fire safety is a complex puzzle covering a myriad of aspects. The Modern Building Alliance have built upon the B.I.O. framework to gather and present up-to-date information about various elements and technologies that can improve the fire safety of buildings. Drafted in collaboration with experts across various dedicated fields, the B.I.O. factsheets were developed.

The three factsheets to be issued this year will cover the following topics:

In collaboration with the European Fire Sprinklers Network, the factsheet on sprinklers debunks the myths around sprinklers and explains the current national legislations across the EU.  Indeed, the use of sprinklers varies a lot. For example, in Wales, sprinklers are mandatory in residential buildings but are not required in many other countries. Discover it here.


REHVA, the Federation of European Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations, provides us with an extensive understanding on the importance to manage smoke in case of a fire  in their Guidebook #24 Fire Safety in Building – Smoke Management Guidelines. Building on the Guidebook, the factsheet on smoke management presents the main strategies and technologies used to ensure the safe and efficient evacuation of occupants in the case of a fire.  Discover it here!


Alarms are vital Installation products to ensure early evacuation in the case of a fire. The use of smoke alarms is determined by national codes and varies from one country to another. This factsheet highlights the state of current national requirements on smoke alarms.

To be issued early January.


We wish you a pleasant reading!

If you want to help us draft a factsheet on a specific topic part of the B.I.O. framework, feel free to contact us: info[at]!

Fire Safety Competency is part of agenda for the European Fire Safety Week 2020

Fire Safety Competency is part of agenda for the European Fire Safety Week 2020

2 November 2020

For its second edition, the European Fire Safety Week 2020 (EUFSW2020) will take place virtually from 17–19 November. The ambitious objective of the week is to gather together policymakers, fire services, fire experts and other stakeholders to bring the topic of fire safety higher in the EU political agenda.

This year again, the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) teams with a large group of stakeholders to amplify fruitful exchanges amongst them, building upon the European Fire Safety Action Plan.

Launched earlier this year in an event with policymakers, this action plan is supported by more than 120 firefighters, fire professionals, associations, academics, fire safety stakeholders and members of the European Parliament. It is never too late to support the Action Plan!

We are very proud and honored to get three Members of the European Parliament involved in the Webinar #5 related to the Energy Transition and buildings:


Maria da Graça Carvalho from Portugal. She was a senior advisor of Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, from November 2014 to December 2015. Previously, she was a member of the European Parliament, between July 2009 and May 2014. In that capacity, she was one of the rapporteurs of Horizon 2020. She was also Principal Adviser to President Barroso in the fields of Science, Higher Education, Innovation, Research Policy, Energy, Environment and Climate Change from 2006 to 2009. She is a Full Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (University of Lisbon).





Strong supporter of the European Fire Safety Alliance, Member of the European Parliament Carlos Zorrinho from Portugal will close the session related to Buildings and Fire Safety Competency. Mr Zorrinho is also one of the first MEP that officially signed to support the European Fire Safety Action Plan and hosted its launch last September.





Author of the Motion for a Resolution to set up a EU Fire Safety Day, Member of the European Parliament Željana Zovko from Croatia will open the webinar focusing on the context of the Energy Transition and Fire Safety of Buildings on Thursday.







The Modern Building Alliance is immensely proud to contribute to this significant milestone for fire safety and hopes this edition of the Fire Safety Week will be as successful as the last.

In collaboration with the European Fire Safety Alliance, Europacable and the Forum for European Electrical Domestic Safety (FEEDS), the Modern Building Alliance is co-organising the fifth session, dedicated to the stake of the Energy Transition for buildings and the role of fire safety competency.

Download the PDF programme


Download the PDF programme


Quentin de Hults, the executive chair of the Modern Building Alliance, will present exclusive results from an architects’ survey about the involvement of fire safety experts during a building’s design.

We will learn about the best practices on the involvement of fire experts in construction projects and the organisation of electrical inspections at national levels. Together with architects, fire engineers, academics and policymakers, we will map the necessary roles and responsibilities of fire safety professional needed during the design, construction and operation phases of a building. Moreover, we will discuss how to strengthen their role, skills and competencies to accompany the renovation wave.

The importance of fire safety competency has already been recognised in an own-initiative report of the EU Parliament. Join the webinar to help us to move the discussion forward!


Download the PDF programme