Agency hands down report

NIST suggests architects use fire protection engineers in the design process of tall or high-risk buildings
SSN Staff  - 
Monday, August 1, 2005

BETHESDA, Md.--Officials investigating the disaster at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 handed down 30 draft recommendations to improve the safety of tall buildings in late June, including one that stated fire protection engineers should be involved in the design process of such structures.
The investigators, from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, compiled the recommendations and supporting information in a 10,000-page document.
Morgan Hurley, technical director with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, said although recommendations for the fire protection of tall and high-risk buildings have been considered before, this is the first time the federal government has been involved.
"I think that anytime there is a fire with unacceptable consequences some recommendations come out of it," Hurley said. "This is the first time the federal government has done this because of the new authority they have been recently given that allows them to investigate fire and building events."
Other related fire events that have spurred action on codes and guidelines are The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 people. Also fueling change was the First Interstate Bank fire that engulfed the 62-story building in downtown Los Angeles causing $50 million in property damages.
'Whenever there is a major fire, someone takes a look to see what can be learned," he said.
According to Hurley, there are currently no requirements for fire protection engineers to be involved with architects in the design processes of buildings. He said that engineers specializing in fire, as well as the structural design of tall buildings, should play an active role in the process.
"These are the people who know how a building performs during a fire."
The agency's report is currently available for a comment period. The SFPE has assembled a panel of fire protection engineers to review it and Hurley said he expects there will be comments from a variety of sectors. It is expected that NIST will issue a final report in September.
Even with the job of delving through the report in front of the SFPE, Hurley said it supports the announcement.
"We are pleased that the NIST recommendations came out this way," Hurley said. "We think any type of building requires some kind of fire protection design engineer involved."