Sunday, August 27, 2006

The fire fighting issue. (part 1)

I noticed a question about fire prevention almost in every exam. Most candidates I met complain that it’s a tough nut to crack. In practice, I personally think that such question was a great way to assess an architect’s knowledge. This is one subject that no architect should take lightly - certainly not to leave it to the mechanical engineer’s fancy. Because left to them you would end up marveling at the red pipelines on the wall, ceiling and everywhere and tripping on the hose reel drum at every next corner.

Fire prevention or protection is not a rocket science. It is something you could easily understand if you can understand the principle behind, which is preservation of life and property. Of life, it is the protection of the owner/user/occupants by preventing fire from breaking and if it still happens, providing means to run out to safety or to run in to save something or somebody. Fire hazards – fire that kills is not limited to flames, but smoke, fumes and the chemical by-product that is emitted when burning. It also includes fire debris – collapsing structure, melting metals, exploding gas tanks, broken glass etc. How to stop the fire from starting and spreading is the technical and largely mechanical issue.

Basic Reference.

Architects I know are the lazy lots. So I don’t expect you to refer to too many books or reference material. After all you wont have the time to flip them all in the exam hall. The two minimum reference books are:

1. Uniform Building By-Law; which you must have a fair knowledge, at least at which section to flip, and

2. Guide to Fire Protection in Malaysia; the red book published by Bomba, a must have to all architects.

The red book is to me one of the best reference material because it breaks the complex ‘code’ – the jargons of the UBBL into diagrams, something all architect has little excuse not to understand. Of course it helps to keep yourself up-to-date with the circulars and the likes.

I will not attempt to be too technical on explaining the aspects of fire prevention. That you must read on your own. My explanations, I will keep forthright and simple.

Site planning

Fire protection begin with site planning. In site planning, the two things to determine are;

1. Fire fighting or fire appliance access to the building
2. Fire hydrants location.

Fire Appliance Access

Fire appliance access to the building; simply meant how the fire engine can reach the building, shoot water at the building and from where firemen can enter the building. Fire appliance access requires architect to determine the volume of the building, which will determine whether the building should be accessible from one, two or three sides or treated as an island. Because buildings are sometimes oddly shaped, access areas are determined by parts of the total length of wall.

Volume of Building Access Area
7001 to 28000 m3 - 1/6 of total length of wall
28001 to 56000 m3 - ¼ of total length of wall
56001 to 84000 m3 - ½ of total length of wall
84001 to 112000 m3 - ¾ of total length of wall
Above 112000 m3 - island

For those who had to ask how can we determine on the volume of the building? The answer is to go back to either the client’s brief or the plot ratio decided by the local authority.

Fire hydrants location.

For positioning the hydrants, you only need to know 6 things.

1. In new developments, the hydrants must be placed 90 meters apart.
2. In existing development, a hydrant is needed if the nearest existing hydrant is more than 45 meters radius away.
3. The hydrants must be placed between 610mm to 2 meters away from the fire appliance access.
4. It must be 2 meters from the building and overhangs
5. Away from risk of being hit by vehicles
6. Away from street furniture like phone booth, feeder pillar etc.


Post a Comment

<< Home