In her latest column for the November/December issue of NFPA Journal, Kathleen Almand discusses the requirements that many NFPA fire protection system standards contain for periodic inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM). These requirements are coming under more scrutiny as they add to the life-cycle cost of fire protection systems and, in the case of water-based systems, as the resources consumed in the process become ever more precious.
Last year, the Fire Protection Reseach Foundation conducted a study of fire pump reliability that explored the types of data from inspection records that are important for improving the basis of ITM requirements, and it proposed a framework to collect that data in a systematic way. But there are other important considerations in using a risk-based approach: What is the consequence of failure, for example, of one system component in terms of the threshold for acceptable performance of the system as a whole?
Read the full article to find out what NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation have been doing over the last few months to answer these questions and tackle this issue, as well as what some of the next steps are.
A new report, "Fire Safety Challenges of Green Buildings" was recently published by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. The report was authored by Brian Meacham, Brandon Poole, Juan Echeverria and Raymond Cheng, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Many new commercial facilities are being designed and constructed with an objective of achieving a “green building” certification. There are many sustainable building features and products that singly or together may have an impact on fire safety unless there is a design approach which mitigates those effects. The Foundation commissioned this study to develop a baseline of information on the intersection of “green building” design and fire safety and to identify gaps and specific research needs associated with understanding and addressing fire risk and hazards with green building design.
Fire fighters and other emergency responders are routinely exposed to IDLH conditions (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health) that contain harmful gases and particulates and require the use of specially designed personal protective equipment. Protecting fire fighters and other emergency responders from these harmful atmospheres is a challenging problem. The goal of this two-year project, conducted collaboratively with WPI and funded through a DHS/FEMA grant, is to develop a sensor to provide uninterrupted real-time information on hazardous conditions to better inform decision making around the use of PPE.
Metal dust explosions are amongst the most complex phenomena addressed by NFPA codes and standards. The goal of this project is a compilation of recent combustible metal explosion incidents in a format that will aid in the understanding of the factors influencing the initiation and control of explosion and/or fire events. Read about the Research Foundation's new project "Combustible Metal Fires and Explosions – Case Studies".
Dr. Louis Gritzo of FM Global highlights the three big takeaways from his talk regarding the integral role of fire protection on sustainability, given at the Fire Safety and Sustainable Building Design Symposium.
During the Foundation’s Fire Safety Design and Sustainable Buildings Symposium, Sean DeCrane, of the Cleveland Fire Department, gave his perspective on the hazards of sustainable buildings. Mr. DeCrane discussed the importance of training for the fire service because of the new developments in the construction industry. Traditional stick built houses with heavy upholstered furniture is a thing of the past. Today fire fighters are faced with engineered, lightweight lumber, expanded foam materials, and photovoltaic panels on roofs. Many of these sustainable materials contribute to faster burning fires and buildings that fail much quicker. Not only are fire fighters facing new hazards inside of buildings, but they are facing challenges getting to the building itself. Green rating systems give credits for reducing paved surfaces, increasing landscaping and reducing traffic. This makes for beautiful cities that save energy, however, it creates literal road blocks for fire fighter vehicles. Every extra minute it takes the fire service to navigate around narrow roadways and traffic calming devices is another minute the fire has to grow and another minute someone might be waiting for rescue inside that building. Mr. DeCrane argued that sprinklers and training are two of the best things we can do for our fire service. Check out this video that Mr.DeCrane shared from UL. It compares a fire in a legacy room (think grandma’s upholstered furniture and heavy fabric curtains) to a modern room (one that was purchased right off the shelf at one of today’s furniture stores).
At the Foundation's conference on fire safety and sustainable building design yesterday, several practical solutions to fire safety in green design were presented. Dan O'Connor, Aon Fire Protection Engineering, presented the results of recent research designed to more effectively utilize fire protection detection systems. Paul Turnbull, with Siemens, demonstrated how integrating building fire and other control systems can result in sustainability gains. Russ Fleming, National Fire Sprinkler Association, reviewed the enhancements in fire sprinkler system design that have led to significant water and material usage savings. Look for the symposium presentations on the Foundation's website as well as a planned compilation of best practices and emerging issues.
Tom Chapin of Underwriters Laboratories presented at the Fire Safety Design and Building Sustainability Symposium on the impact of new 'sustainable' materials on the fire load of buildings. In his remarks, he shared information on the implications of population growth on sustainability which was a hot topic at a recent international conference he attended. Watch this video interview with Tom to find out why he says sustainability is the key to prosperity and well-being and how the Fire Protection Research Foundation event taking place in Chicago this week has bearing on this topic.
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The Foundation’s Fire Safety Design and Sustainable Buildings Symposium kicked off this morning with a keynote presentation by Gordon Gill, Partner of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. Mr. Gill presented numerous case studies of both buildings and design studies that feature new and innovative sustainable design elements and concepts that provoked thought amongst attendees about how these elements could integrate with fire safety.
These design elements included a high rise building in China where the wind is directed through fuselages at three different levels in the building to run wind turbines to help power the building. Another building included the incorporation of “wind cones” that span the height of the building and use passive ventilation so that the environment in the cone is 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature without air conditioning while providing courtyard green space in the building.
Mr. Gill also talked about a study that his firm has undertaken called the “Decarbonization Plan of Chicago”, which focuses on reducing the energy consumption of existing buildings instead of continuing to try to find alternative energy means to provide the current energy needs of these buildings. The plan is available on the firm’s website.