2 January 2018
First published: 2 January 2018
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Structural fire engineering is often adopted in large open-plan structuressuch as airport terminals, railway stations, etc., where the low fire risk can be directly conceived and a structural fire analysis may bring significant savings on structural fire protective coatings. In some recent cases, structural fire engineering approaches have also been applied to landmark high-rise buildings in China. This paper introduces four different examples of such methods with varying motivations, approaches and ultimate design schemes, to provide readers with an insight into the commercial application of structural fire engineering in China.
The next edition of the ASCE/SEI 7 standard commences a new and groundbreaking industry-consensus standard of care for structural fire protection in the USA, and other adopting jurisdictions. The default option is termed standard fire resistance design, and is based on a long-standing empirical indexing system that excludes consideration of realistic thermal demands and structural system response.
The only permitted alternative to standard fire resistance design is structural fire engineering (SFE), as constituted in the new Appendix E. SFE explicitly evaluates the demand and capacity of structural systems under fire loading in a similar manner as other design loads are treated in structural engineering practice.
Due to common misconceptions and lack of industry guidance, designers often erroneously intermingle these two approaches in order to justify structural fire protection variances. To combat this poor practice, recent industry efforts in the USA have focused on formally bifurcating these two design options, and providing specific requirements for the SFE approach.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy in London last June was a stark reminder of how rapidly a fire can spread and the horror which it can cause. In the wake of this disaster, the UK construction industry is actively examining what can be done to minimise the risk of similar tragedies in the future. It is likely that one of the recommendations will be a clearer identification of responsibilities, but whatever the outcome it will clearly be helpful for all members of the design team to have a good understanding of all aspects of fire safety, as well as detailed knowledge about those aspects under their direct control.