Office buildings focus on air quality, energy efficiency, fire/life safety

Designing office buildings in a post-COVID world is a challenging task with engineering variables, including fire and life safety systems

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer February 11, 2021


  • Elena Bollas, PE, Mechanical Engineer, Page, Austin, Texas
  • Timothy J. Hedrick, PE, Principal/Electrical Engineer, RTM Engineering Consultants, Schaumburg, Ill.
  • Dan Luzius, LEED AP, Principal, DLR Group, Seattle
  • Jon Silhol, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Mechanical Engineer, SmithGroup, Phoenix

What are some of the unique challenges regarding fire/life safety system design that you’ve encountered for such projects? How have you overcome these challenges?

Timothy J. Hedrick: A majority of challenges that I’ve encountered when it comes to fire/life safety system design is when renovating an existing building. It’s very common to renovate an existing older building that does not have any existing fire alarm or fire suppression systems installed. Each state and jurisdiction can be different when it comes to what is required and what needs to be updated during a renovation project. Most of the time the client/owner that agreed to renovate this space didn’t anticipate having to provide either or in some cases both of these life safety systems as part of their budget. Overcoming these challenges starts with understanding what is required by the local jurisdiction and fire marshal. Then working with the architect and owner to implement these systems into the scope of work and budget of the project.