WTC Investigators Urge Building Designers to Use Fire Protection Engineers

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff July 8, 2005

The building and fire safety investigators of the WorldTradeCenter disaster have recommended that fire protection engineers be included in the design team for high-risk and tall buildings.

This is one of 30 draft recommendations recently announced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) aimed at improving the safety of tall buildings, their occupants and first responders.

NIST has no authority to implement its recommendations, but strongly urges local public officials and design professionals to adopt them in the future.

Currently, there are no requirements for building designers to employ fire protection engineers as part of a building’s design team. NIST recommends that fire protection engineers be part of the design team providing the standard of care when designing buildings that employ innovative or unusual structural and fire safety systems.

“Using science and technology, fire protection engineers analyze how buildings are used, how fires start, how fires grow, and how fire and smoke affect people, buildings and property,” said Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Technical Director Morgan Hurley. “Having these special skills available during the design of a building is critical to ensuring that buildings are safe in the event of fire.”

SFPE members strive to advance the knowledge and skills of fire protection engineering. The NIST report also recommends that continuing education curricula should be developed for training structural engineers, architects and fire protection engineers in modern fire protection principals and technologies.

“Tall buildings have unique features that make designing ways to keep people safe and protect property from fire more challenging,” said SFPE Engineering Program Manager Chris Jelenewicz. “Because of these unique features, it is imperative for design professionals to understand the current fire protection practices and technologies that keep people safe from fire in tall buildings.”

To help make one of the NIST recommendations a reality, SFPE is currently developing web-based distance-learning programs to train fire service, local code enforcement officials and design professionals on topics of modern fire protection engineering principals and technology.

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