Towards sustainable fire resilient buildings
Modern sustainable buildings provide for different end-user needs, bringing new technologies and construction materials. These new variables significantly impact the performance of buildings in fire. Yet, fire resilience, a crucial element of buildings sustainability, is often forgotten as a parameter to consider.
The increasing use of new sustainable materials and technologies in the construction process, such as power sources or green roofs, means it is crucial to assess the fire risks associated with these new elements, in particular for flammability and toxicity.
Sustainable building rating schemes and reporting frameworks such as LEED, Level(s), BREEAM, HQE, DGNB, WELL or RELI, are at the forefront of the movement towards increasingly sustainable buildings. They generally do not take into account fire resilience as they presume fire safety is fully addressed in building regulations. However, in reality, building regulations focus solely on safe escape routes and do not cover aspects related to sustainability.
In order to successfully green our buildings, we must build a bridge between sustainability and fire resilience and go beyond the minimum legal requirements.
In May 2018, FSEU held a webinar titled “If a building can burn to the ground, is it really sustainable?” which emphasised the role fire resilience plays in buildings’ sustainability. It raised the public’s awareness about these topics’ complementarity and stressed its importance to fulfil our objectives for a sustainable and safe future.
To Fire Safe Europe (FSEU), national and European authorities should acknowledge that fire safety and sustainability reinforce one another by making sure that fire safety is considered in the relevant policies and regulations.
FSEU believes that fire safety regulations should take into account sustainability concerns and that fire safety should become an integral part of the sustainability discussion and be included in buildings’ rating schemes.
Fire resilience plays an important role in achieving a number of Sustainable Development Goals. If a building is not fire resilient, it can lead to considerable environmental, economic and social impacts.
- Environmentally, the release of smoke, toxic gases and other particles have a negative effect on our surroundings and health.
- Socially, fire damages communities, leads to the destruction of public buildings and has a significant impact on the disruption of public services.
- Economically, fire leads to financial loss for businesses and citizens because of the destruction of resources and infrastructure that takes place in the aftermath of a fire.
Fire resilient buildings not only have lower environmental impacts but also reduce the economic and social consequences of fires thereby limiting the disruptions fires cause to societies.
Hence to foster a sustainable future it is crucial to recognise the complementarity between fire resilience and buildings’ sustainability and take it into account in the relevant policies and regulations.
- FSEU’s Newsletter, May 2017 “If a building can burn to the ground, is it really sustainable?”
- Fire Safety: An integral part of sustainability
- The International FORUM of Fire Research Directors, A Position Paper on Sustainability and Fire Safety
- BRE News, Fire safety and sustainable – the perfect combination?
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