Home News Euralarm urges use of holistic approach towards fire safety for building renovations

Euralarm urges use of holistic approach towards fire safety for building renovations

by Brian Sims

Following on from the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), many renovations of existing buildings are to be expected in the coming years. These renovations must lead to buildings that are more energy efficient than they are today. This will require the installation of building automation systems for commercial buildings above 290 kW installed power. Although each country needs to develop its own renovation plan to tackle the expected renovations, one thing is certain: with automation systems being introduced into buildings, more attention should be paid to fire safety. Euralarm is advising holistic approaches to achieve and maintain fire safety.

The building sector in the EU is the largest single energy consumer in Europe, absorbing 40% of final energy. Around 75% of buildings are energy inefficient. This offers a huge potential for efficiency gains. By accelerating the rate of building renovation towards more energy efficient systems and by strengthening the energy performance of new buildings, a large step could be made towards a more energy efficient and greener Europe.

The EPBD provides guidelines for this. It’s one of the initiatives to build a resilient Energy Union within the EU with a forward-looking climate change policy. Therefore, the EU should lead the clean energy transition cutting CO2 emissions by at least 40% come 2030. The implementation of the EPBD must be completed by 2025 to contribute to this target date – including the renovation plan. The energy transition will be a driver for modernising the EU’s economy and delivering on jobs and growth for all European citizens.

Depending on the EU Member State, only 0.4%-1.2% of the building stock is renovated each year. These figures allow much room for improvement, not only in energy efficiency but also in terms of economic growth. Construction activities that include renovation work and retrofits add almost twice as much value as the construction of new buildings. SMEs contribute to more than 70% of the value added in the EU building sector. Building corporations as well as project developers are the main drivers for renovating existing buildings since their economy of scale makes it financially more interesting to invest in renovations.

Higher fire loads in modern(ised) buildings

Due to the 2018 edition of the EPBD, Member States shall encourage the renovation of buildings and promote the energy performance of commercial buildings, both new and existing. While investing more in renovations, Governments and authorities as well as building owners need to pay attention to the implications on the fire safety of buildings as renovations can introduce significant changes in fire safety requirements.

With the growing number of electronic and electrical devices in buildings (eg energy storage as part of the energy efficiency measures), the increase of fire loads of buildings will continue and must be considered in the overall fire safety concept and infrastructure. According to Euralarm, regular fire safety reviews by certified professionals are now even more crucial and should be sufficiently prioritised by private and public building owners and operators.

Safety and security included in renovation plans

This should be part of an holistic approach adopted towards achieving and maintaining fire safety in both renovated and new buildings.

First of all, the building structure and its contents must be considered as to how they contribute to the overall fire load as well as how they can hinder and restrain a fire event. Considering the building and its contents as a system allows authorities, fire safety engineers and building owners alike to oversee the impact of changes on the fire safety.

It would then also enable the responsible persons (ie authorities or building owners) to optimise or fully maximise the use of technical means to provide early detection and evacuation of the building. The early detection and warning could be coupled with systems for extinguishing fires and managing smoke and heat as well as guidance systems to bring occupants to safety.

An organisational plan should be made with an overall view on the building including its infrastructure, its intended use and occupancy and the systems in place for detection and management of fires. This plan should identify what’s to be done in the event of a fire and who’s responsible to initiate and execute which measures.

The introduction of an holistic approach towards fire safety requires qualified people and companies who can define the fire safety concept. The required level of qualification not only counts for the definition phase, but also for the design, installation, commission and maintenance phase.

Following this approach should lead to systems that are in line with the EN 16763 Services Standard for Fire Safety Systems and Security Systems.

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