Fire safety design for tall buildings

A. Cowlard, A. Bittern, C. Abecassis-Empis, J. Torero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In any subject area related to the provision of safety, failure is typically the most effective mechanism for evoking rapid reform and an introspective assessment of the accepted operating methods and standards within a professional body. In the realm of tall buildings the most notable failures in history, those of the WTC towers, widely accepted as fire induced failures, have not to any significant extent affected the way they are designed with respect to fire safety. This is clearly reflected in the surge in numbers of Tall Buildings being constructed since 2001. The combination of the magnitude and time-scale of the WTC investigation coupled with the absence of meaningful guidance resulting from it strongly hints at the outdatedness of current fire engineering practice as a discipline in the context of such advanced infrastructure. This is further reflected in the continual shift from prescriptive to performance based design in many parts of the world demonstrating an ever growing acceptance that these buildings are beyond the realm of applicability of prescriptive guidance. In order for true performance based engineering to occur however, specific performance goals need to be established for these structures. This work seeks to highlight the critical elements of a fire safety strategy for tall buildings and thus attempt to highlight some specific global performance objectives. A survey of tall building fire investigations is conducted in order to assess the effectiveness of current designs in meeting these objectives, and the current state-of-the-art of fire safety design guidance for tall structures is also analysed on these terms. The correct definition of the design fire for open plan compartments is identified as the critical knowledge gap that must be addressed in order to achieve tall building performance objectives and to provide truly innovative, robust fire safety for these unique structures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-181
Number of pages13
JournalProcedia Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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