When planning a unique structure, building designers may find their plans depart from certain building and fire code regulations. A small complication or oversight in code compliance can throw everything off schedule and increase costs.

Included in the fire code are a number of building requirements on area, height, and other fire safety features. The codes generally intend to help ensure buildings do not pose a threat to firefighters or endanger occupants; however, the codes cannot address every situation. In some cases, building and fire codes include requirements that are outdated, which may potentially increase the risk to occupants and firefighters.

Harrington Group is often asked to help address these concerns through an alternative means and methods approach that may include what is known as performance-based design.

Performance-Based Design

We look at the intent of the code and model specific fire scenarios to analyze whether occupants or firefighters would be threatened in our clients’ buildings. By using advanced fire simulation software, we can analyze the building design and counsel clients, as well as building and fire officials, how to best meet the intent of the building and fire codes while maintaining the form and function of the building.

Applications to Fire Protection Engineering

FDS and SMV can be used to compare data between different simulations and study the impact to the fire environment, such as carbon dioxide concentration, temperature, visibility, velocity profiles, and mass flux data at openings. The ability to study the various phenomena associated with fire help us develop detailed recommendations, and they serve as powerful communication tools.

For instance, FDS/SMV has allowed us to analyze the fire safety of a structure pertaining to the need for smoke removal in a facility. We have compared fire dynamic simulations with the exhaust in place to simulations without exhaust, and have been able to demonstrate when exhaust is not needed. We have also been able to demonstrate how shifting fan positions could improve tenability conditions for occupants and fire fighters.

The results of this work can show plan reviewers, building code officials, and fire officials that a safe design is, in fact, safe, even if it isn’t explicit in the code.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.