A holistic approach towards fire safety

A holistic approach towards fire safety

Key insights from #EUFSW22 session on performance-based design and fire safety engineering

The European Fire Safety 2022 is a wrap! On Wednesday 16 November, the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) and a large range of stakeholders joined forces and welcomed powerful European voices to take a holistic look at fire safety approaches during a full-day workshop. The Modern Building Alliance led the session related to performance-based design (PBD) methodologies and fire safety engineering (FSE).

‘Fire safety is not a party-political issue but a European one.’ Theresa Griffin (FEEDS)

Experts and political participants echoed Theresa Griffin’s (FEEDS) powerful opening by discussing the various issues linked to fire safety in Europe. The seven speakers provided key recommendations to ensure fire safety to be holistically considered as part of the renovation wave.

The session led by Diane Daems, Chair of the Technical Working group of the Modern Building Alliance, started with Silvia Dimova from the European Commission’ Joint Research Centre. Ms Dimova made a presentation on the recent report on the use of PBD and FSE methods in Members States. John Barry from the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage in Ireland provided a very good example on the Irish performance-based regulatory system, and Professor Patrick van Hees (Lund University) covered the key challenges that are needed to be addressed to ensure having qualitative workforces and training on this field.

Act for Fire Safety in each building life cycle

The speakers emphasised the need to ‘Act for Fire Safety’ at each level of the building life cycle phases through a holistic approach that includes two critical elements: ‘performance-based design’ and ‘fire safety engineering’. A building’s fire safety strategy designed using the performance-based method ensures the processes needed to detect possible risks at an early stage and seeks to maintain safety throughout the entire lifecycle of the building. Fire safety engineering demonstrates the use of engineering principles to protect people and property from fire. The latter may be the only viable means of achieving a satisfactory standard in some large buildings, complex buildings, and works in existing buildings. Although both elements of this holistic approach are encouraged by a vast majority of EU Member States, the speakers during EUFSW22 stressed that there is still a need for education, research, and standardisation on fire safety engineering in the EU.

Prioritising fire safety engineering

With, on the one hand, the green transition and, on the other hand, its increased number of high-rise buildings, urban density, and reduced mobility for the growing and ageing population, Europe is facing a transformation of its building stock that could put people’s safety at risk. History shows us that implementing a robust legal framework for fire safety engineering is crucial in preventing the same mistakes from happening twice. A prime example of such legal initiatives is Ireland, whose reaction to the Stardust fire in 1981 resulted in making fire safety engineering a priority.

A performance-based regulatory system encourages flexible solutions

Performance-based building regulatory systems could open the doors for an effective approach to fire safety. This means a regulatory system based on clear objectives, allowing more room for flexible, effective, cost-efficient solutions and, most importantly, based on knowledge from a scientific investigation into fire and its consequences. These flexible solutions are especially needed for complex facilities which are impossible to tackle through the prescriptive method, e.g., high risks (health care facilities), high rise or industrial facilities, and renovation projects. Additionally, this covers all fire safety goals, such as safety of life, property protection, continuity of operation, and environmental protection, including the growing complexity and need for quality. As underlined by Prof. van Hees and John Barry: “Performance-based design offers a comprehensive way to reach the highest fire safety standards while coping with the challenges brought by the evolution of the building stock.”

Key recommendations

Performance-based design is an important tool for replacing detailed regulations for design in different facilities. The EUFSW22 workshop highlighted the complexities of fire safety, not only from an engineering perspective but also from an educational level. Facilitating technical guidance, education, research, and standardisation on Fire Safety Engineering related topics is crucial for all stakeholders in building and construction, particularly engineers and PHD’s. These educational challenges, as emphasised by Prof. van Hees, need to be tackled on an international level and should be a joint effort between regulators and industry.


To know more:
About the European Fire Safety Week 2022
About the workshop on 16 November 2022
About the Session IV. Performance-based design: the need for fire safety engineers and role of standards

Fire Safety and the New EPBD

Fire Safety and the New EPBD

15 December 2021

The revision process of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) started yesterday with the publication of a proposed text by the European Commission.

The new EPBD must fit with the European Green Deal Strategy and the Fit for 55 package aiming to decarbonise the buildings sector by 2050.

As mentioned by Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, ‘Buildings are the single largest energy consumer in Europe, using 40% of our energy, and creating 36% of our greenhouse gas emissions. That is because most buildings in the EU are not energy efficient and are still mostly powered by fossil fuels. We need to do something about this urgently, as over 85% of today's buildings will still be standing in 2050, when Europe must be climate neutral. Improving our homes is also an effective response to high energy prices – the worst-performing buildings in the EU consume many times more energy as new or properly renovated ones. And it's often the most vulnerable who live in the least efficient houses and therefore struggle to pay the bills. Renovation reduces both the energy footprint of buildings and the energy costs for households, while also boosting economic activity and job creation.’

The Commission’s proposal sets buildings on a path towards decarbonisation. This should be done via highly energy-efficient building envelopes and decentralised renewable energy production alongside making them fit the energy transition, which means supporting much greater electrification of the mobility services (charging points for cars, bikes, etc.). Such evolutions can entail fire risks – and consequently, require expertise and know-how to manage them.

The Modern Building Alliance welcomes the wording in the proposal that considers that fire safety should be looked at holistically, together with other elements, when improving buildings.  We believe such considerations should focus on:

  • Fire safety as a prerequisite to any sustainability considerations because involving skilled and competent professionals will ensure the quality and compliance of building design, construction and renovation;
  • Making regular inspections of electrical systems a much more common practice because electrical inspection regimes will ensure the evolution of the energy system to be fully ready to transit.


The Own Initiative on the Implementation of the EPBD supports our call for regular inspections of electrical systems and goes a step further to ensure smoke management in case of fire (full details in this article).

On top of this, the European Commission put the topic of batteries on the agenda of the Fire Information Exchange Platform meeting in April 2021. The aim was to exchange with member states representatives and stakeholders how to deal with fire safety with new electrical cars.

The topic of fire safety in the context of the renovation wave was also on the agenda of the European Fire Safety Week. Access line up, recording and presentations


Additional information:

European Commission’s website

European Parliament’s EPBD report touches on fire safety

European Parliament’s EPBD report touches on fire safety

10 November 2021

Yesterday, the European Parliament’ Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) adopted the Implementation Report of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) by 49 votes in favour, 11 against and two abstentions. The report looks at how the current EPBD has been implemented in EU Member States and what could be improved. It repeats the central role buildings will play to reduce CO² emissions, tackle energy poverty and support the recovery of local economies. The report still has to be voted in Strasbourg during the Plenary of December or January.

The text covers a large range of considerations and includes some topics of particular interest for fire safety:

 Amendment 8d on page 7:  […]‘calls on Member States to develop an electrical inspection regime, since 30% of domestic and 75% of domestic accidental fires have an electrical source15;  (EPP 178)’…

Electrical safety as effective preventative measure

This recommendation refers to the White paper published by the Forum for European Electrical Domestic Safety (FEEDS, 2021) which states that in Japan, the number of fires has been reduced by close to 90% since inspections became mandatory in 1960’s.

The Modern Building Alliance welcomes this recommendation and fully supports the development of electrical inspection regimes. It proves that preventative measures effectively impact the number of fire casualties. Prevention is the very first layer of the 7 layers for fire in buildings which highlights the importance to address fire safety in a holistic manner starting with prevention, detection, early suppression, evacuation, compartmentation, structural safety and firefighting.

Smoke management is a key element of an efficient fire safety strategy

The report also addresses the question of smoke management in case of a fire.

Amendment 8d on page 7:  ‘[…] believes that the European building stock renovation should integrate electrical safety checks and upgrades and ensure sufficient ventilation for smoke in case of fire (EPP 178)’

All smoke is toxic and preventing occupants from being in contact with smoke will ensure an effective, safe and quick evacuation. Fire and HVAC engineers are highly qualified to secure buildings to be properly designed and equipped to be safe in case of a fire. The Modern Building Alliance advocates for the involvement of skilled and competent professionals to be involved in building design, renovation and also maintenance of buildings. It is the best way to ensure the building to be compliant, while meeting thermal performance, comfort and safety requirements.

Smoke management is another topic covered in the EU Fire Safety Guide in the layer related to compartmentation. In addition,  a full factsheet on Smoke management is accessible here.




The Modern Building Alliance has been calling since its founding for a holistic approach to fire safety of building and we are delighted to see some of our key recommendations being taken over by the ITRE Committee.

Access the voted text

High-rise building on fire in Milan

High-rise building on fire in Milan

1 September 2021


Following the fire of the high-rise building located in via Antonini in Milan that occurred on the 29th August 2021, the Modern Building Alliance wishes to express its sympathies to everyone affected by this unfortunate incident.

We would also like to give credit to the Milanese fire services for their rapid, professional, and effective intervention that ensured a safe evacuation of all occupants.


The ongoing investigation on the incident will clarify the circumstances and elements which contributed to the fire. Nevertheless, we noticed on social media and in some press, mentions related to the alleged involvement of polystyrene insulation.

We understand that the façade was clad predominantly in a mineral fibre (Euroclass A2) insulated ETICS system, with two large uninsulated Aluminium Composite Material decorative “sails”, offset from the ETICS system.


The Modern Building Alliance awaits the outcome of the investigation that will clarify the circumstances of this incident and will closely follow and support the conclusions and learnings helping to improve fire safety of façades of high-rise buildings.


‘Fit for 55’ Package issued

‘Fit for 55’ Package issued

14 July 2021

Today the European Commission has released part one of the ‘Fit for 55’ package.

This package contains a set of interconnected proposals to align EU policies on climate, energy, land use, transport, buildings and taxation to achieve the EU objective of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by, at least, 55% of the 1990 levels by 2030.

The European Commission also published its Communication 'Fit for 55' that provides further details on its objectives, implementation and supporting measures. It states that, where possible, existing legislation will become more ambitious and new proposals will be developed where needed.

The building and construction sector is concerned by the update of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Directives. The update will be complemented by policy measures that will specifically support the building sector to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce the overall energy needs of energy appliances/systems.

To tackle energy poverty, the New Social Climate Fund (€72.2 billion for 2025-2032) will support investments to increase the energy efficiency and renovations of buildings, clean heating and cooling, and integrate renewable energy in a manner that can sustainably reduce both CO2 emissions and energy bills for vulnerable households.

The Communication also refers to the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) to take place later this year. The text states: ‘The revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive . . . will identify specific measures to accelerate the rate of buildings renovations, contributing to energy efficiency and renewable goals and greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the buildings sector.’


Additional information from the European Commission website:

Communication 'Fit for 55'

Factsheets on delivering the European Green Deal


Source: Screenshot https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/delivering-european-green-deal_en

New Team for the Modern Building Alliance

New Team for the Modern Building Alliance

1 June 2021


The Board of Directors of the Modern Building Alliance is pleased to announce the appointment of Perrine Ethuin as the new Executive Chair of the alliance as from the 1st June 2021. She succeeds Quentin de Hults who will join another European organisation.


 ‘Perrine is the ideal successor to Quentin in his role within the Modern Building Alliance. Being involved in MBA activities for more than two years now, Perrine will further develop the MBA engagement with fire safety in our industry with policy makers and with other stakeholders to support the EU in advancing safe and sustainable construction. We wish her great success in her new role’.

Chair of the Board, Alberto Mercati, Dow



Perrine added: 'I am honoured and thrilled to be chosen to lead the Alliance. I will build on Quentin’s legacy to proactively open discussions and advance fire safety. With my new colleague Franklyn, we will carry on working in the same spirit and I look forward to collaborating with the plastics industry, stakeholders and EU policy makers to strengthen our contribution to the fire safety debate.'




As mentioned, Perrine is going to be supported by Franklyn Okwara. Franklyn is a Fire Safety Expert who graduated from the KU Leuven and from the Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering in Ghent University. He will support the MBA Technical Working Group in its activities. 'We are very happy to have Franklyn on board to support the Modern Building Alliance’s ambition for a greater fire safety across the construction industry',  said Perrine.



The Board and all members of the Modern Building Alliance as well as the team would like to thank Quentin for initiating the Modern Building Alliance as well as his immense contribution and commitment to the Alliance since 2018.


The Board wishes Perrine all the best with her new position and welcomes Franklyn to the Modern Building Alliance.

Fire Australia Conference 2021

Fire Australia Conference 2021

11 May 2021


Today, the Modern Building Alliance was on the agenda of the Australian Fire Conference 2021 and tradeshow in Sydney.

Speaking via video from Brussels, as a guest of the sister organisation Australian Modern Building Alliance (AMBA), Quentin de Hults highlighted fire safety data from Europe, the 7 layers of fire safety in buildings and a proposed European regulatory framework – covering building, installation and organisational (B.I.O. framework) requirements for fire safety in taller (high-rise) buildings.

The information presented by the MBA highlights that a holistic approach is needed for fire safety in buildings and that prevention is multifaceted and goes beyond individual materials to include a more integrated system’, said the AMBA Chair, Dr Craig Lovel.

AMBA media release available here

About AMBA

The Australian Modern Building Alliance (AMBA) is an interest group of companies that was established in 2019 to represent the use of polymers in the Australian construction industry. AMBA’s goal is to ensure the benefits of polymer-based construction products are harnessed to create enduring modern buildings that are safe, sustainable and energy efficient.

MBA on the agenda of Engineers Ireland event

MBA on the agenda of Engineers Ireland event

28 April 2021

The Modern Building Alliance was invited to give a presentation at the annual CPD seminar, organised by the Fire & Safety Division of Engineers Ireland.

Titled ‘The Need for Fire Safety Competency to Support the EU Renovation Wave’, the presentation aimed at describing the current European renovation context and emphasising the importance of addressing fire safety as a prerequisite to the sustainability of renovated buildings.

The presentation of the architect’s survey demonstrated the need to get a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities regarding fire safety. It was also a reminder of the importance of addressing this complex issue in a holistic way by covering the 7 layers for fire safety.


Copyright: screenshot from Engineers Ireland website


Engineers Ireland is the voice of the engineering profession in Ireland. Their 25,000 members make up a community of creative professionals that deliver solutions to society.



MBA input to the EPBD inception impact assessment

MBA input to the EPBD inception impact assessment

22 March 2021

As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission plans to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) to ensure delivery of the EU climate ambition for 2030 and 2050. In this context, the European Commission is now consulting stakeholders on the need for a revision. The inception impact assessment is a first step that will be followed by a public consultation, which will last a couple of months.

The Modern Building Alliance’s input to the inception impact assessment:

Decarbonisation of the building stock must be based on a deep reduction of energy consumption, as it is the very first step to achieving the Renovation Wave that is part of the European Commission’s Green Deal agenda. We call on EU policy makers to support an ambitious EPBD and to further recognise the instrumental role of buildings in achieving the EU’s climate goals in all climate-related policies and strategies.

Due to their performance, durability, weathering resistance, low maintenance, cost-effectiveness, light weight and design flexibility, plastic insulation materials and window profiles are the solution of choice for retrofitting the largely inefficient European building stock.

Based on the above, the Modern Building Alliance supports the Option 2: Non regulatory measures and the Option 3: Amend the EPBD to translate the actions proposed in the Renovation Wave and the increased ambition towards building decarbonisation into legislation. All new or revised measures of the EPBD should be directed towards extensive energy renovation and reinforce the political direction for the coming decades.


The Modern Building Alliance is calling for an EPBD revision that is ambitious in terms of:


  • Depth of renovation – priority should be given to the renovation of the building envelope (energy efficiency first principle), as a complete and effective thermal insulation renovation saves any kind of energy (from fossil to renewable).


  • The full deployment of Energy Performance Certificates to the market with their possible use in building renovation passports.


  • An increased renovation rate – instruments to encourage or ensure energy renovation works, including targets, progress indicators, financing and the introduction of Minimum Energy Performance Standards, must be in place to reduce the energy consumption of the building stock as required to meet the EU climate and energy efficiency targets.


  • Requirement of the involvement of accredited fire safety experts – as is already the case with energy experts – in renovation processes as well as in regular fire and electrical safety inspections to ensure the quality, compliance and safety of buildings.


Deep energy renovation will help to achieve high quality performance of the building stock and is also an opportunity to improve other key dimensions of the environment in which we live. It can lead to improved health and comfort, reduced energy poverty, the creation of jobs and economic growth and greater fire safety.

Achieving highly energy efficient and decarbonised buildings is an ambition that requires many solutions, such as high-performance insulation, resource-efficient materials, renewable energy and energy storage technologies. These innovations involve fire risks and opportunities. Fire safety must neither lag behind nor impede this evolution. It must accompany it.

Such renovation works should take a holistic approach to fire safety with consideration given to the following 7 layers: prevention, detection, early suppression, evacuation, compartmentation, structural safety and firefighting.

The MBA also believes that a revised EPBD offers the opportunity to embed fire safety competency into EU legislation. Skilled and competent professionals with clear roles and responsibilities, who are involved during the buildings’ design, construction and maintenance phases, will ensure a safe transformation of the building stock.

To learn more, visit https://www.modernbuildingalliance.eu/fire-safety-skills-competency

Renovation also offers the opportunity to upgrade old electrical installations and to install fire detection systems, alarms and suppression systems. This would prove beneficial at a time when building infrastructure is deemed to become more integrated with sustainable mobility solutions like private and public electro mobility.

CoGDEM Europe: Putting safer heating at the heart of building renovations

CoGDEM Europe: Putting safer heating at the heart of building renovations

16th March 2021

CoGDEM Europe, the Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring, organised an online roundtable in the presence of members of the European Parliament Maria Spyraki and Seán Kelly. The Modern Building Alliance was invited to contribute to the discussion.

In her speech, Perrine explained the 7 layers concept, which demonstrates the importance of addressing fire safety in a holistic way. Even with equal level of importance, the second layer, detection, which as a concept is a masterpiece that shows how to ensure proper warnings and initiate an early and safe evacuation.


Perrine stated that the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) could be used as an opportunity to address fire safety by involving skilled and competent professionals that will ensure the 7 layers to be covered. Finally, she reminded us that regular inspections of both heating and electrical systems are essential. According to the Forum for European Electrical Domestic Safety, electrical fires account for 25–30% of all domestic fires in Europe and have increased by 5–10% in the last 10 years.



To know more about CoGDEM Europe