How fire engineering consultants can help to reduce design, construction and operating costs

With an ever competitive construction industry and an unpredictable economic climate, multidisciplinary drivers for innovation and cost-effective design, construction and operation of buildings are imperative.  Fire engineering, as one of the modern and flexible engineering disciplines, can offer some of most significant cost savings and, with the right application, bring enhanced value to the design.  A well-developed fire strategy, correctly implemented by highly qualified and experienced fire engineers, should utilise as much as possible the building’s natural qualities  to ensure it will achieve an acceptable level of fire safety whilst incurring minimal additional cost above that required to satisfy the original design aspirations.      

A basic interpretation of compliance with guidance documents such as Approved Document B and British Standards will not take into account the unique properties of every building design. These documents, as far as is reasonably possible, benchmark common building situations against a worse case catchall design.  Strict compliance with the documents does not necessarily equal a safe design, and certainly doesn’t ensure optimum value, particularly for large, complex or existing historic buildings. It can be difficult and more costly to ensure that the design meets the recommendations of the prescriptive codes, and in some cases, building designs may not even be possible to realise as they become financially unviable or are architecturally starved using a prescriptive approach.  

For 20 years, Tenos have employed highly experienced and qualified fire engineers who are capable of identifying opportunities where a basic prescriptive approach does not provide the best value, and alternative cost-effective solutions are possible without compromising on safety.  The inclusion of trained and qualified fire engineers during early design consultation is an effective way of ensuring that a fire strategy has a minimal impact on the design and cost of a project, whilst reducing the chances of programme delays and the need for retrospective changes.  

Here are some examples of how Tenos frequently add value to design projects:

  • Reducing the number or widths of stairs – conserving floor space, reducing costs and increasing flexibility in design, particularly in office and retail projects;
  • Maximising building population and usable floor space – increasing lettable areas, particularly in offices and retail projects;
  • Ensuring correct measurement of escape distances and application of recommended limits – reducing constraints on design and increasing flexibility for fit-out, particularly in residential, education and retail projects;
  • Optimising crowd movement – minimising the burden on operational management, particularly in retail, leisure and stadia projects;
  • Minimising facade areas requiring fire protection  – significantly reducing costs, improving construction programme and increasing flexibility in design, particularly in office and industrial projects;
  • Reduced fire protection to structures – significantly reducing construction costs, improving construction programme and providing more flexibility on use of materials, particularly in industrial and stadia projects;
  • Maximising areas for undivided fire compartments – reducing construction costs, improving the construction programme and eliminating the impact on architectural design, particularly in retail and industrial projects;
  • Optimising fire safety system designs –  reducing the onus on building management and operation, particularly in retail and leisure projects;
  • Ensuring the correct application of fire strategy within the construction stage – minimising the potential for retrospective corrections during construction.


Case Studies

Having produced fire strategies for up to 900 retail projects, Tenos have excellent experience in providing and fine-tuning cost-effective retail strategies that omit fire safety provisions that are unnecessary, onerous and are not required to achieve a satisfactory degree of life safety.  Tenos were appointed by John Lewis to develop the fire strategies for a number of their stores which include Stratford, Cardiff and Leicester.  As part of the fire strategy development, a fire engineering assessment of escape showed that the number of stairs could be reduced by one or two cores compared to a standard code complaint approach, freeing up significant areas on each level and maximising retail space.  

Tenos have also carried out a number of fire engineering assessments on Morrisons stores to show that they could more than double their compartment size compared to that which would be achieved using a prescriptive approach, whilst also omitting sprinklers.  This increased the flexibility for fit-out in the store and saved significant installation and maintenance costs.

Figure 1: Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling of Morrisons store showed that compartmentation of the sales floor and sprinklers were not necessary, resulting in significant savings in installation and maintenance costs for fire shutters and a sprinkler system.

Tenos have also worked with several clients to optimise their fire safety management structures and reduce operational burden and costs.

A recent example is IKEA Reading where Tenos carried out egress modelling studies to identify opportunities to deliver optimal egress arrangements (over and above fire safety guidance recommendations) and reduce reliance on fire safety management and emergency procedures (e.g. fire warden deployment) for the store.  The analysis showed a reduction in fire warden deployment could be justified through enhancements in the building design.

Figure 2: Tenos carried out a people movement analysis for the IKEA, Reading store to identity opportunities to enhance the design of the build and consequently cut management costs for facilitating evacuation

Tenos were appointed to act as the project fire engineer on a 40,000 seat Qatar 2020 World Cup Stadium project.  The initial stadium bowl design was comprised of a Lower Tier & Upper Tier, with the Upper Tier seating accessed via vomitories at two levels.  Tenos undertook a review of the means of egress design of the Upper Tier and concluded that it was possible to remove the upper level of vomitories from this tier and still meet demonstrate compliance with the recommendations of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (FIFA Requirement) and Civil Defence regulations.  Our review enabled the removal of a storey which was solely being used to access the upper vomitories, providing a substantial cost saving to the client.

For more information on how Tenos can help to reduce design, construction and operating costs for your next design project, contact Head of Business Development, Geoff Marlow on 0161 872 6798.