The presentation from Modern Building Alliance Executive Chair Quentin de Hults at the Australian Modern Building Alliance’s Fire Safety 2021 Conference & Tradeshow saw European data presented to Australian building personnel that highlighted seven layers of fire safety in buildings.

Making the proposed European regulatory framework — dubbed BIO — known to Australians, de Hults explained the inner workings of the framework, that includes covering building, installation, and organisational requirements for fire safety in taller (high-rise) buildings.

Speaking via video link from Brussels, de Hults says understanding the factors that influence building fires is key to improving fire safety.

“Most building fires are preventable and start with the contents of the dwelling, rather than its construction materials. We need to address the issue holistically and focus on prevention.”

To demonstrate this – and the benefits of applying fire safety requirements at the BIO levels – Mr de Hults references industry-best practice from the United Kingdom and Estonia, where prevention has been at the core of fire safety strategies for buildings, and has achieved significant reductions in fire related incidents.

Addressing the fire safety of building facades an element of BIO framework), de Hults reinforces the need for a performance-based design approach with large-scale fire testing to adequately assess the fire behaviour and safety of facade systems.

“Large-scale system testing must be used, regardless of the combustibility of individual components,” he says. 

“Consideration also needs to be given to all elements of the facade system. For example, fire barriers in cavities are essential for ventilated facades.”

He says that the quality and compliance with fire safety codes and regulations within the building is the responsibility of professionals across the building and construction value-chain.

“Creating modern buildings that are safe, sustainable and enduring requires a whole-of-industry approach. Because fire safety is a prerequisite for energy efficiency and sustainability, the involvement of fire engineers should be strengthened during building design, construction and Maintenance.”

“To support fire safety, product manufacturers contribute to robust product standards, maintain high levels of quality control, and classify and label their products in line with the codes and standards. They provide detailed and up-to-date information about their product performance, installation and use guidelines, and contribute to the training of building planners and product installers.”

The establishment of the European Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP) has helped the evolution of fire safety practices, according to de Hults. He says the involvement of an Australian equivalent would significantly increase fire safety nationwide.

While fire safety has certainly improved in the previous decades, AMBA Chair Dr Craig Lovel recommends that Australian building codes maintain performance-based design and large-scale system testing of actual facades to ensure best use of all materials in buildings that are safe, sustainable and energy efficient.

“The information presented by the MBA highlights that a holistic approach is needed for fire safety in buildings and that prevention is multifaceted and goes beyond individual materials to include a more integrated system,” he says.

Quentin de Hults’ full presentation to the Fire Safety 2021 Conference can be viewed here. Fore more information, visit the Australian Modern Building Alliance or Modern Building Alliance.