Our buildings are safer than ever before. We have equipment and systems installed that are essential to the safety of the occupants of the property. These give both Facilities Managers and the occupants peace of mind.
They include fire protection systems like sprinklers and alarm detection systems, extinguishers, hose reels, mechanical systems like smoke spill fans and stair pressurisation fans, and signs not to use the lifts in an emergency.
In maintaining our buildings, we have a duty of care to service these features for continued safety.
In spite of our increasing regard for safety and requirements for Duty of Care, even committed, conscientious and regular maintenance schedules can leave a building, and its tenants and customers, at risk if there is incorrect maintenance of fire safety features.
When designing a building there are 2 ways to design the essential safety provisions.
The first is “Deemed to Satisfy Design”. It follows the National Construction Code. This prescribes the need for basic safety measures such as sprinklers, fire hose reels, evacuation procedures etc., but may not achieve more than the minimum standard of fire safety.
The second is “Performance Design.”
Performance design is an Alternative Design.
Performance criteria uses computer modelling and evidence- based scientific method, which are demonstrated performance methods proven by a fire engineer.
Performance Design means you can design a building that is more architecturally interesting, can use the allocated site to best advantage and can increase useable floor area while still maintaining the highest standards in fire safety. This leads to better and safer outcomes.
Performance Design can inspire a solution that is better than the standard design that is simply Deemed to Satisfy.
It is imperative that building owners and facility Managers are aware if the building is built using Performance design. It is essential that the maintenance staff are made aware of this.
A copy of the fire and engineering documentation must be kept with the original design and maintained and be made available for maintenance providers. This ensures that any changes or upgrades in the future don’t compromise the safety of the original design concept.
Alan Short, Managing Director of FESSA, says “Where the risk comes in it is really well understood when the building is being designed and when it’s being built but we need to make sure that we continue to maintain that building to the standard that it was designed to, not to the default which we all know is Deemed to Satisfy requirements”
Performance Design is of great advantage to building planning and safety if used as intended but unless properly maintained, it can compromise the safety of building inhabitants and create a risk.
This is important when it comes to emergency planning.
If planning for an emergency event you need to be aware of the existence of the Performance Design. This is because way you need to evacuate a Performance Designed building may be different to the way you would normally expect a traditional evacuation to occur.
For example, unlike in a standard Deemed for Safety designed building, lifts may be able to be used to evacuate in the event of a fire if Performance Design has included that the storage area outside the lifts is smoke sealed from the rest of the floor area.
So be aware of the way the essential fire safety systems have been designed in your property, and ensure you have the original fire and engineering documentation at hand when it comes time for your regular safety maintenance.