Fire Safety and Engineering
The concept for this project originated in late 1987 as an examination of innovation in structural engineering. Following meetings with some of Australia’s leading engineers and architects, including fire safety and engineering specialists. The Warren Centre refined its focus initially to innovation constraints in structural engineering and then to the highly legalistic, prescriptive and poorly integrated approach to fire safety engineering in Australia. Here was the opportunity for The Warren Centre to make a significant contribution by proposing fundamental improvements to fire safety engineering.
The project led to substantial improvements in building fire safety.
ENGINEERING BASIS FOR FIRE SAFETY IN BUILDINGS
The objectives of the project were to define an appropriate philosophy and take a systematic approach to develop an engineering basis for fire safety design in multi-storey and other buildings.
It aimed to provide a basis for the development of a new generation of regulations, codes and standards that would ensure the economical achievement of satisfactory levels of fire safety in buildings.
SYMPOSIA AND SEMINARS
The project had a central task group which gave technical direction to a further seven task groups, each addressing a separate component of the project.
The project achieved wide community exposure through the international symposia in Sydney and Melbourne in April and May 1989, as well as interstate seminars at the conclusion of the project.
The Warren Centre brought eight international visiting experts to Australia to contribute on specific aspects of the project. The collection of their papers was compiled as the output of the International Symposium on Fire Safety and Engineering, and formed part of the successful sales of the project’s four reports (Project Report, Technical Papers Book 1 and Book 2 and International Symposium Papers), providing further evidence of its success.
INAUGURAL MODEL AND RISK ASSESSMENT
The project demonstrated for the first time that a model could be created which would give a rational assessment of:
- Effectiveness of the various inter-related fire safety and protection facilities
- Cost of fire protection and losses resulting from a fire
- Risk to life from fire
The project also showed that a risk assessment approach was feasible and it developed a risk assessment model that, with further refinement, would assist in:
- Developing more economical building regulations
- Comparing the cost-effectiveness of various combinations of fire safety measures for a particular building
MAJOR CHANGES TO FIRE SAFETY RECOMMENDED
The project recommendations proposed major changes to fire
- The current levels of fire safety in Australia should be maintained
- Design for fire safety should be treated as an engineering responsibility rather than as a matter for detailed regulatory control
- Risk assessment models and the associated sub-models and input data should be further developed to improve their reliability before they are used for design purposes
- Adequate financial resources should be provided to enable this development to be progressed in the short term
- Risk assessment models should be used as a basis for identifying cost-effective combinations of fire safety subsystems for building design
- Appropriate statistical information on actual fires should be collated to form input data to the risk assessment model
- Designers should develop a greater understanding of fire phenomena and human behaviour and adopt appropriate engineering techniques in their design of fire safety systems
- Fire engineering design courses and training strategies should be developed and implemented, up to and including postgraduate level
- A national strategy should be developed for research, development, application and education on fire- engineering design.
SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENTS TO BUILDING FIRE SAFETY
The Warren Centre project was a major catalyst for change. It lead to significant Innovation In Structural Engineering, the project’s initial focus in 1987. Among its many achievements:
- The Building Code of Australia’s fire engineering requirements were drafted in performance terms, including the acceptance of integrated fire systems engineering
- A business plan for fire code reform in late 1993 and in 1994 resulted in significant federal and state government support for the widespread reform of fire safety practice. This was pledged through the Australian Building Codes Board over a period of five years and was matched by industry funding. This in turn led to the formation of the FIRE CODE REFORM CENTRE (FCRC), chaired by Dr John Nutt, International Chairman, Ove Arup, which in the ensuing five years raised $7 million in cash and in-kind assistance from government and industry supporters. This funding allowed the Centre to undertake ESSENTIAL RESEARCH and implement sweeping reforms to Australian fire engineering practice
- The project’s Steering Committee played an important role in a review of building regulations undertaken by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce. That review started during The Warren Centre project and produced at its conclusion in 1991 a CODE FOR FIRE SAFETY DESIGN. Approximately 2500 copies of this code have since been distributed worldwide
- The Warren Centre project and the work of the FCRC generated significant international interest, particularly in the USA, Taiwan, China and Singapore Australian engineering schools now give a greater focus to fire safety design and use The Warren Centre project reports as text books
- Victoria University and the University of Western Sydney have developed postgraduate courses in fire safety engineering The number of professional fire engineers in Australia rose 50-fold in the period 1995 to 2000 and fire engineering has become a distinctive competence of some consulting engineering practices and construction companies
- Arup is currently assisting to draft building codes in Hong Kong, Taiwan And China as a response to this project, which promotes The Warren Centre’s international profile