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Updated: Sep 21, 2023



It is being noted that the fire engineering design and specification approach is taking a turn toward the rule of thumb type of scenario rather than careful consideration. Rules of thumb are simple guidelines for straightforward situations but in tall buildings may often prove wrong. Especially, where active measures are proposed for fire protection systems. In such circumstances, more complex fail-proof assessments of different fire scenarios including systems failures should be considered and an understanding of the shortcomings of modelling techniques acknowledged.


The engineers involved in forming statements and initial modelling often do not consider the impact of the construction, shortcomings of the design software, requirement of straightforward maintenance and control of the system during use or possible future modifications.

The report mentions the assessment of the Stage 2 concerns. In my opinion, such a broad approach and using such rudimental techniques for the specification of the building at this stage is typically driven by price. The major reason for the existence of this stage is to persuade the planning authority to pass the building and the number of requirements imposed by the local authority may be significant and may not lead to planning approval therefore rendering more in-depth considerations unnecessary.

This may, however, if badly controlled and not early acknowledged by the client and the design team, lead to the development of dangerous schemes at a later day or unnecessary change of the entire strategy that will influence the design and the client’s brief.


The specialist should develop guidelines on the assessments, their procedures, shortcomings, and application to a wide variety of builds concentrating on the whole process from A to Z and lessons learned involving real projects and variations to the management of their design delivery. This may go against the policies of individual professional companies involved but such knowledge sharing will improve the industry in general and allow a heuristic approach to tall building projects of varying kinds.


It is a British ailment in the building regulations for the statutory duty holders to have no responsibility to the project or the people involved and yet for the designers to treat no refusal or comment from the Building Control as a mark of the pass and good practice. It is well known that the Building Control is not there to have specialists on all subjects and provide checking engineers duties and yet they are somehow perceived as such.

It is yet again apparent that the industry chases legislation instead of legislation chasing best practices. Can it ever change in the commercial world where minimum effort and minimum specification mean perceived lower cost which drives projects forward?

Perhaps the specialists in their roles should come out of the shadows and take the lead on thoughts and approaches to allow for consistency in the sector. Maybe, HSE could finance such an endeavour?



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