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Real fire resilience goes beyond regulation
By Eline Lhoest
July 09, 2020

“Ensuring a building complies with fire regulations is not enough to guarantee its long-term fire resilience”, says Amaya Osácar, Knauf Insulation’s Fire Safety Manager.

Most regulations focus on design and building materials, but fail to take into account rebuilding a damaged construction or the ability for a building to recover quickly from a serious fire.

Amaya’s call for better building fire resilience comes at a time when the European Union is working on a €750 billion recovery package to rebuild Europe’s shattered economy that includes a massive renovation drive.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to factor fire resilience into Europe’s economic recovery and into future building policies
Amaya Osácar - Fire Safety Manager, Knauf Insulation

“Recovering from a fire is the epitome of building resilience. But there are no regulations for this. The failure of a business to bounce back quickly or a school to open fast after a major fire could be devastating for a community.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated clearly the impact on businesses that could not respond quickly to crisis situations. When it comes to fire it is vital to focus on all areas of risk that are not covered by regulations.”

 

‘Spend smart, not spend more’

Among these areas, she says, are understanding how buildings are used, the extent to which their usage has changed, issues such as maintenance and on-going fire management.

“For instance, it is no use installing insulation with a poor fire performance to meet energy-saving building regulations if that increases a building’s combustibility,” she says.

“This is not about spending more money, it is about spending smart and investing time and effort in assessing all risks and ensuring buildings are better prepared for fire rather than simply adhering to regulations.”

For example, she says, it may make sense to go beyond minimal regulations for building compartmentalisation — creating fire resistant areas to protect the functionality of certain spaces after a major blaze has swept through a business or public building.

“Most of the building may be fire-damaged but fire-protected areas may mean the difference of a company bouncing back in a few weeks rather than a few months,” Amaya says. “It is easy to underestimate how long it will take to get back to business.”

‘Anticipate all potential risks’

Ensuring building fire resilience is about anticipating risks before it is too late and asking questions such as: is it possible to avoid the installation of lightings or electrical wires as time goes by? How has maintenance impacted the fire safety of the structure? Has a change of building use increased fire risk? And if fire regulations have not kept up with new state-of-the-art building materials, are those materials the safest choice?

“Doing the minimum to meet minimal fire regulations and not considering all the other potential risks you can control will inevitably impact resilience,” says Amaya.

“If a fire burns down a school or hospital, simply saying ‘we followed regulations’ is not enough. There is a profound social expectation to have considered every possibility. We must always factor in the best possible fire solutions for our buildings.”

 

Future-proofing buildings

Knauf Insulation produces A1 and A2 fire-safe solutions for all building applications including Rock Mineral Wool and Glass Mineral Wool rolls and slabs, Heraklith boards and panels, insulation for HVAC systems, safety doors and garage panels.