Developing fire strategies for historic buildings

Steve Emery shares his thoughts on what conservation professionals should put into fire strategies for historic buildings.

In the latest edition of the Built Environment Journal published by RICS, the issue of fire safety in historic buildings is explored by the University of Oxford’s fire officer.

He takes the view of the conservation professional and how they need to look at historic buildings through a fire safety lens to avoid the experience of high-profile fires like those in the Glasgow School of Art in 2018 and Notre Dame in April 2019.

His starting point is the need for a fire strategy to be dynamic and reviewed regularly, particularly when any works take place on site and introduce new risks and hazards. He offers some more detailed discussion about what to think about when employing contractors on site.

He promotes a simple approach to strategy development to inform the fire risk assessment required under the Fire Safety Order. He also makes the link to Approved Document B to aid the structure and considerations for the strategy.

Responding to recent discussions about fire doors that emerged at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Steve makes the point that: They are probably the most controversial aspect of fire safety in heritage buildings, with those seeking to improve their fire performance sometimes coming into conflict with those responsible for protecting the building's historic fabric and character.”

He offers short case studies to illustrate some of the considerations for the fire strategy, one about fire and rescue service access to the site in question and one on compartmentation considerations.

The full article can be found on the RICS website.