Security Tops the List of a Building’s Most Important Feature


A nationwide survey by the Bethesda, Md.-based Society for Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) reveals that from a list of characteristics that included comfort, fire safety, environmental friendliness and other amenities, security was chosen by more Americans as the most important feature of a building.

Twenty-eight percent of Americans feel general security is the most important feature, while 15% of respondents indicated that fire safety is the most important aspect of a building’s design.

“The findings are not a huge surprise, given the threat from terrorism that we face today,” says Chris Jelenewicz, SFPE’s engineering program manager. “But one thing people don’t often think about is how security and fire protection have common goals in building design—protecting life and property.”

As part of National Engineering Week, which took place from Feb. 19 through 25, the organization published on its website (at ) an article from Fire Protection Engineering Magazine that features how fire protection engineers design ways to balance fire protection and security in a building. (The article is still available at the NSFE website.)

“Throughout history, the desire for increased building security has contributed to countless deadly building fires. The most notable fire occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911, where locked exit doors contributed to 146 fatalities,” said Jelenewicz. “Although the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire occurred almost 100 years ago, the threat can still exist today if security is not balanced with fire protection. For instance, padlocked exit doors contributed to the deaths of 175 concertgoers at a Buenos Aires nightclub fire in 2004.”

The survey also reveals that 56% of Americans think about fire and the dangers of fire either on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. A sizeable 44% think about fire just once a year—or less. This finding remains unchanged from 12 months ago, when the same question was asked.

Another noteworthy finding from the survey revealed that 44% of Americans feel safer in their home when compared to public and commercial buildings—such as schools, churches, and offices.

“Although some people may feel safer in their homes, more fire fatalities occur in homes than in other types of buildings,” says Jelenewicz. “Building regulations have stricter fire safety requirements for public buildings than they do for homes.Accordingly, the efforts of fire protection engineers are generally focused on public buildings, which are consequently much safer.”

The survey polled more than one thousand American adults. The findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

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