External Fire Spread to and from Neighbouring Buildings
In a recent incident in China, two adjacent towers (16 storeys high) were engulfed in flames within seconds after the outbreak of the fire in one of the towers. Despite great efforts by the fire service, who spent two hours putting out the fire, unfortunately there were two fatalities and significant material costs. This incident illustrates the consequences for life safety and the fire and rescue service when fire spreads to neighbouring buildings due to inadequate safety measures.
What precautions exist in the UK to prevent such a tragedy?
In the UK there is a requirement in the Building Regulations that fire should not spread over the external walls of your building or from one building to another. The fire resistance required on the external walls of a building depends on various factors such as the use of the building, the distance to the site boundary, adjacent road or nearest building, the area of openings in the facade and the degree of compartmentation within the building itself. The aim is to ensure sufficient fire resistance to allow for the safe evacuation of the occupants and prevent the fire spreading and causing damage to neighbouring buildings.
With a significant number of new high-rise buildings approved for construction in the UK in the last few months, (mainly residential), the challenge to maintain high safety standards increases. As land shortages become a real issue, the boundaries between buildings get tighter. This, combined with the demand for taller buildings, increases the fire risk. A design to limit the spread of fire to neighbouring buildings is integral to schemes. At the same time, current guidance has not adapted to the new environments and materials. A fire engineering solution then becomes the best approach to maintain the high safety standards that the UK is renowned for, while adapting to new challenges in construction. Our Fire Engineers can assess the specific challenges of each project and recommend solutions to allow increased unprotected areas whilst still ensuring there will not be fire spread to neighbouring buildings and that life safety standards are maintained.