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JRC Technical Report on Fire Safety Engineering: recommendations for harmonisation in the EU

Jan 26, 2023 | News

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission has recently published its Technical Report “The status and needs for implementation of Fire Safety Engineering approach in Europe”.

The report presents the results of the enquiry on Fire Safety Engineering, organised and coordinated by the European Commission, in the period November 2020-October 2021. It addressed to the principal fire regulators of all EU MS, 3 EFTA MS (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and 2 countries with National Standardisation Bodies members of European Standardisation Committee CEN (United Kingdom and Serbia). The enquiry was performed through a questionnaire and it aimed to collect and assess the information necessary to facilitate the provision of guidance to the EU/EFTA MS for a wider application of the fire safety engineering approach and its possible incorporation in the national regulatory framework and/or national practices.

Results of the enquiry on FSE implementation in Member States

The results of the questionnaire highlighted that:

  • Of the 34 responding countries, the vast majority allow the application of the FSE approach within the current national regulatory framework for fire design. Justifications for the non-application of FSE approach include the absence of infrastructure components and lack of sufficient expertise.
  • The prescriptive approach for fire safety design is still predominant in European countries, as they provide 40% to 50% of technical solutions in the FSE-related technical areas (TAs). In comparison, performance-based solutions only range from 25% to 35%. It is noticeable that most countries have a mixed percentage of prescriptive, deemed-to-satisfy and performance-based approaches
  • 22 out of 34 countries/regions allow mainly for only one approach. However, the TA of Structural Fire Safety appears to be an exception, with the most significant percentage of countries/regions providing for more than one design approach.
  • The data offer a generally positive picture for the potential of FSE approach application methods in Europe. Among the categories most addressed are airport terminal buildings, museums and exhibition centres, concert/sports halls and high-rise buildings. However, residential buildings are among the least indicated construction types for which the FSE approach is applied.
  • The liability for fire safety design shows significant differences among the responding countries/regions. However, most countries indicate a fire safety designer as responsible for the project’s fire design and the constructed building’s fire safety.
  • A qualification for reviewers in FSE project is not explicitly defined in 12 out of 30 countries/regions that allow for applying the FSE approach in construction projects. However, a certification/license is the most frequent requirement for professionals involved in FSE projects (in 10 out of 30 responding countries/regions).
  • According to the responders’ opinions, the most important topics for standardization to be further developed are the selection of design fires and fire scenarios and fire safety performance and acceptance criteria. Furthermore, it seems that the fire safety design in innovative buildings might be the ideal target for using FSE-based design methods.

Conclusion and recommendations

As for the status of implementation of FSE approach in the responding countries/regions, it can be concluded that the FSE approach currently is not fully implemented in the national regulatory frameworks. Moreover, the need for standardization is particularly high in the selection of design fires and fire scenarios and the fire safety performance and acceptance criteria. The development of standards in such fields would increase the uniformity and objectivity in the processes of design and evaluation of FSE projects.

Thus, this study put forward several recommendations as the next steps needed for the harmonisation of FSE implementation in the national regulatory systems:

  1. Further research should focus on the reasons for non-allowance and the practical non-application of FSE approach in fire design.
  2. A detailed study on FSE education at university and professional levels is recommended to clarify the comparison between the paths to educate FSE engineers and the tasks such professionals are called to fulfil.
  3. A focused investigation should be carried out on the aspects that show the most varied features among the countries involved in this enquiry, with a focus on the qualification frameworks for reviewers/practitioners and design review and approval processes
  4. Further research should clarify the definitions of the terms “fire safety expert”, “fire safety consultant”, and “fire safety engineer”, especially in terms of required qualifications.
  5. Next efforts should be the identification of good practice examples in building fire design and construction across the targeted countries.