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.
“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).
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.