Performance-Based Design: An International Perspective

Internationally speaking, the world community's perspective on performance-based design is, well, on fire. In a conference session on protecting iconic structures, topics ranged from how to design buildings that suffer minimal damage from explosions to the importance of professional associations in developing and maintaining a safe built environment.

06/01/2003


Internationally speaking, the world community's perspective on performance-based design is, well, on fire.

In a conference session on protecting iconic structures, topics ranged from how to design buildings that suffer minimal damage from explosions to the importance of professional associations in developing and maintaining a safe built environment.

The subject of performance-based design (PBD), however, produced a lively exchange. Lawrence Reddaway, an engineer from Melbourne, Australia, presented a case study on the retrofit of Melbourne's Olympic swimming facility, which is purported to be one of the world's first documented examples of performance-based design. The building was converted to a sports/ entertainment facility in 1981. He commented that PBD freed him from prescriptive requirements, which he stated, equated sprinklers with "God." PBD, in other words, allowed the designer to reduce the number of sprinklers normally required, saving money.

A former Melbourne firefighter, however, challenged the notion of less is better, relaying a story of how a fire broke out at the building just a few years ago. The fire, which wasn't disastrous, could have been prevented in his opinion, had sprinklers been installed in the arena portion of the building—the only area lacking them.

The fire, for the record, involved a snowmaking machine that caught fire during a trade show. And in defense of Reddaway and PBD, another attendee suggested that the incident was more related to improper enforcement than to design.





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