Promoting Performance-Based Design-at Home

As the leader among industrialized countries in fire death rates, the United States is lagging significantly behind other nations in the adoption of performance-based fire-safety practices, according to a recent report released by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Center for Firesafety Studies, Worcester, Mass.

01/01/2001


As the leader among industrialized countries in fire death rates, the United States is lagging significantly behind other nations in the adoption of performance-based fire-safety practices, according to a recent report released by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Center for Firesafety Studies, Worcester, Mass.

"Modern performance-based practices not only stand to yield higher levels of building safety at less cost, but also offer more flexibility in achieving a wide range of public-policy goals," explains David A. Lucht, P.E., the center's director. "Unfortunately, these approaches have not yet found their way into routine day-to-day building-code and -design practice in the United States."

With fire property damage costing the United States between $100 billion and $200 billion per year-approximately 2 percent of the gross domestic product-the report, "Regulatory Reform and Fire Safety Design in the United States," urges officials to encourage leadership and coordination in establishing a greater national vision of fire-safety standards and practices.

Because U.S. building safety is deferred to state and local governments-which, in turn, look to model codes and standard groups-performance-based design, like any change in building practices, must travel an obstacle-ridden regulatory road before garnering wider acceptance in the U.S. building industry, says the report.

It was this challenge that 120 engineers, architects, code officials, attorneys, academics and researchers sought to address at WPI's conference last year. With much of the information in WPI's report gleaned from conference presentations and discussions, the paper sets forth a number of goals to help promote performance-based design, including:

  • Establishing a national forum where various stakeholder groups can come together and define a national vision for the future of performance-based design in the U.S.

  • Strengthening research on performance-based fire-protection engineer-design methods and regulatory practices.

  • Increasing public and private sector resources to execute, review and approve performance-based designs.

  • Improving education and certification programs.

The report also presents a number of performance-based design benefits such as:

  • Reduced regulatory burden.

  • Enhanced international competitiveness.

  • More safety at lower cost.

  • More flexibility in design.

For more information about the Conference on Firesafety Design, log on to: www.wpi.edu/+FPE/Conf.





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