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Old 15th June 2017, 04:00 AM   #201
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I skimmed the last couple pages here and sorry if this has already been answered but has arson been officially ruled out? Or is there another likely initial cause?
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:07 AM   #202
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Nice to know your view of people.
Oh, I stand by the statement. Unlike you, however, I have read the MA and followed the requirement to address the argument, not the arguer.

Feel free to bring forward a competent technical argument at some stage.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:07 AM   #203
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
I skimmed the last couple pages here and sorry if this has already been answered but has arson been officially ruled out? Or is there another likely initial cause?

Reports of a catastrophic failure of a refrigerator seem to have some corroboration.

However, it cannot be ruled out that it was a jihadist Muslim refrigerator.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:09 AM   #204
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Quote:
Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, managed to escape. "As I was going down the stairs, there were firefighters, truly amazing firefighters that were actually going upstairs, to the fire, trying to get as many people out the building as possible," he told the BBC.
I just want to take a moment to praise the firefighters. I have two buddies who are retired firefighters -- one is retired from FDNY and the other from the White Plains (NY) Fire Department -- and this kind of fire in a high-rise building, especially at night and especially an occupied high-rise, is a real nightmare. It is a very difficult and dangerous fire to fight. It requires a lot of physical stamina on the part of the firefighters and a lot of sheer guts too. Trying to get up all those stairs wearing the gear, carrying equipment, and then being able to function at high efficiency once they get to the upper floors -- they can't take a quick breather after climbing all those the stairs -- is a real physical challenge.

Great job guys.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:10 AM   #205
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
I skimmed the last couple pages here and sorry if this has already been answered but has arson been officially ruled out? Or is there another likely initial cause?
Pure speculation on my part, but it is probably too early too rule out something like that. I speculate that the priority will be on any possible rescue followed by securing the building for body recovery before investigating the cause. But I don't know.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:17 AM   #206
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
Reports of a catastrophic failure of a refrigerator seem to have some corroboration.

However, it cannot be ruled out that it was a jihadist Muslim refrigerator.
Thanks. I had heard about the refrigerator explosion. Just wasn't sure if the investigators had confirmed that yet.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:19 AM   #207
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Thanks. I had heard about the refrigerator explosion. Just wasn't sure if the investigators had confirmed that yet.

I don't know that they have, either.

I know that more than one interview with more than one first-hand witness seems to support the story.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:21 AM   #208
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
I don't know that they have, either.

I know that more than one interview with more than one first-hand witness seems to support the story.

This includes the guy whose refrigerator it was, and at least a couple of people who were near his apartment and heard him saying so and warning people to get out.

Not an established fact, but some reliability.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:22 AM   #209
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
Having four experts on the forum in any specific subject is something we should appreciate, not dismiss. This is especially so in areas where the rest of us don't have the expertise. Unlike the BBC reports, we get to ask questions (even the stupid questions). Great resource, and without the burden of having to jump to conclusions.

Although... you know, it's going to be fun to blame the usual targets anyhow. Big industry/builders/landlords, government, Muslims.
In all fairness I think there's five of us: myself, MikeG, Jerry, Newton's Bit, and BasqueArch. Three architects, two engineers I believe, all with experience in design and delivery of tall structures. Doubtless someone will try to claim that we've not substantiated those qualifications, however I think that the technical posts made (most notably on the 911 threads over the years) speak for themselves.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:28 AM   #210
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
This includes the guy whose refrigerator it was, and at least a couple of people who were near his apartment and heard him saying so and warning people to get out.

Not an established fact, but some reliability.
Unfortunately it's being reported that by the time the guy started knocking on neighbours' doors, he'd already taken the time to gather together bags of his own posessions. More worringly, one neighbour said the fire didn't seem very big, as he could see into the kitchen through the open doors....

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Old 15th June 2017, 04:31 AM   #211
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
Unfortunately it's being reported that by the time the guy started knocking on neighbours' doors, he'd already taken the time to gather together bags of his own posessions. More worringly, one neighbour said the fire didn't seem very big, as he could see into the kitchen from the open doors....

None of which is relevant to the accuracy of the reports.

In a way it is further corroboration.
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:33 AM   #212
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Originally Posted by baron View Post
Self important nonsense.

Darn, wrong quote, nm
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Old 15th June 2017, 04:34 AM   #213
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
None of which is relevant to the accuracy of the reports.

In a way it is further corroboration.
No, but the (assumed) delay and not closing the kitchen door can't have helped. There has been some focus on the "stay in your flat" advice, but not on what residents should have been doing if they were leaving their flats, especially if one was the seat of the fire.

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Old 15th June 2017, 04:55 AM   #214
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There is, on my shelf in the office, a book entitled "Why Buildings Fall Down" which I keep alongside more technical publications - it's an interesting read, especially for year-out and newly qualified architects who have hitherto not had the benefit of studying in one of the more technical schools in the UK.

The chapter on structural dermatology is interesting, and of course Ronan Point gets plenty of space together with the Regency Hyatt.

Those who think that the forensic analysis of building fabric failure is straightforward, or something which the layman can approach with any degree of confidence, would be well placed to read this book. It makes clear that the causes of failure are typically complex, albeit tracked back to basic design or constructional flaws.

Whilst at university, I specialised in fabric issues from an early stage - I'm the only architect in a family of structural engineers, which probably helped - and remember well the lecture provided on the Citicorp Tower case (both in terms of latent design defects and how to handle professional ethics issues from discovery).

What those outwith this specialist part of the sector will hopefully get from this book, and technical discussions arising from cases like Citicorp, is the level of investigation and analysis which is required before one can arrive at a definitive conclusion on a large-scale, complex building failure.

I would anticipate that the investigation now commencing will look at three main areas:

(i) The source of the fire and means by which it became established.
(ii) Performance of the fabric, notably the cladding, including quality of construction.
(iii) Fire management within the property, which in turn will incorporate consideration of the extant passive protection (notably compartmentation) issues.

The first of these is unknown, barring talk of the exploding fridge, as are the means by which it might have become transmitted to the cladding.

The second is complex. Whilst the planning drawings refer to a system, I have seen nothing to suggest that the warrant/building standards drawings have been scrutinised or indeed tender documents (depending upon procurement route) such as to confirm this. This in turn leads to issues around fitness for purpose, testing, detailing, and workmanship.

The third, despite protestations from some posters, is likewise complex. The English regs have traditionally worked on the basis of compartmentation with appropriate medium to high levels of fire resistance between each taken in conjunction with phased evacuation of larger premises to avoid overloading of fire escapes. This involves, inter alia, the use of protected zones together with fire doors and the like.

As I have already said, nobody is really in a position to competently comment on these three areas with any certainty pending site investigation. There is a reason that sensible industry experts are staying tight lipped as to their detailed views.

Contrary to the posts by some, JREF/Internation Skeptics is not, and has never been, a general forum for idle chit-cha. It is intended to encourage critical thinking in a lively and enjoyable way. Woe-betide anybody who thinks they can state a view and escape further discussion as to the accuracy (or otherwise) of the points made.

Nevertheless we see that here today. Three posters in particular, none of whom appear to have any grasp of the technical issues, have apparently managed to arrive at fully formed opinions based on their own limited experience of the construction/materials section and the talking heads - some good, most bad - who we see in the media.

I was especially bemused by the hopefully tongue-in-cheek suggestion that there should be a seperate thread for the architects who know what they're talking about. One might consider for a moment those who apparently would have taken the "E" out of "JREF" in order that they might continue their vacuous chatter unhindered.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:04 AM   #215
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
No, but the (assumed) delay and not closing the kitchen door can't have helped. There has been some focus on the "stay in your flat" advice, but not on what residents should have been doing if they were leaving their flats, especially if one was the seat of the fire.
You have inadvertently put your finger on why investigation is required.

Protected zones, which incorporate escape stairs, must be fully enclosed and seperated from unprotected areas using lobbies in order to limit the transmission of smoke throughout the property.

Current practice would be to have these contiguous, although that is not necessarily required.

In older properties, however, it is not unknown to have the corridor on each floor as a part of the protected zone and to treat internal hallways within the flatted dwellings as the protected zone. That in turn would require each doorway from that hallway into habitable accommodation (or places of special fire risk) to be fire doors. My immediate recollection is that the English regs would seek FD30s with self closers.

Of course that then raises issues around management - people busting self closers or wedging doors for convenience, replacement with non fire-rated units over time, and so on. We have dealt with this on local authority hostel projects, for example.

My view is that this latter issue is sufficiently common to necessitate additional measures and/or redundancy within a design. I observe in the passing, for example, that the Scottish Technical Standards require a second means of escape where occupant capacity of any storey is more than 60 or, if I recall correctly, any part of a storey is at a height more than 11m above ground level.

Now let's take the Beetham Tower in Manchester, of which I might know a little, by way of example. For those outwith the UK this comprises a gotel and low level and flatted dwellings at high level, separated by a "Sky Bar". It's 47 stories tall, which is high by UK standards, and located in the city centre adjacent to Deansgate (a main route).

Each flat was designed to incorporate a self-contained, mains powered fire alarm in monitored from the central service point. Common corridors were then formed with compartment walls with medium to high levels of fire resistance, and kept slightly pressurised to prevent/discourage smoke spread during egress and a ventilation system to catch anything else if required. Provision was made for further two door seperation to the escape stairs if required, but ultimately not implemented.

The intention was that the corridors would also act as fire fighting routes, although the fire engineering consultants had concerns around visibility in the event of emergency lighting failure and/or heavy smoke which required extensive modelling.

Now, the Tower is a concrete floor and beam structure. Internally Kingspan was used for soffit insulation, providing a class 0 spread of flame (which meets all UK and, as far as I know, European codes). This is reasonable as the fire-stopped floor slab acts as a compartment floor. The external envelope is not cladding per se, but rather a more traditional curtain walled solution incorporating fire stops at floors and around openings. The issue there was ensuring that break-out at windows would not lead to rapid vertical spread of flame.

That's quite different from how were were designing, and building, tall structures in the 1970s. The industry, and regulatory framework, learn. The extent to which new standards can, however, apply retrospectivly to consented extant structures is very difficult and may, depending upon what comes out of this investigation, change however that can only be done after very careful consideration.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:05 AM   #216
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Originally Posted by newyorkguy View Post
I just want to take a moment to praise the firefighters. I have two buddies who are retired firefighters -- one is retired from FDNY and the other from the White Plains (NY) Fire Department -- and this kind of fire in a high-rise building, especially at night and especially an occupied high-rise, is a real nightmare. It is a very difficult and dangerous fire to fight. It requires a lot of physical stamina on the part of the firefighters and a lot of sheer guts too. Trying to get up all those stairs wearing the gear, carrying equipment, and then being able to function at high efficiency once they get to the upper floors -- they can't take a quick breather after climbing all those the stairs -- is a real physical challenge.

Great job guys.
Yep it let those fire houses go out with a real bang.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/...station-closes

Figure if they can get in on some of that 1970's NY action of urban renewal by closing fire stations?
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:12 AM   #217
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Originally Posted by Architect View Post
<snip>

My view is that this latter issue is sufficiently common to necessitate additional measures and/or redundancy within a design. I observe in the passing, for example, that the Scottish Technical Standards require a second means of escape where occupant capacity of any storey is more than 60 or, if I recall correctly, any part of a storey is at a height more than 11m above ground level.

Something like more than one stairwell, perhaps?
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:16 AM   #218
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Originally Posted by wobs View Post
He's an architect.
Nope.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:19 AM   #219
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
Something like more than one stairwell, perhaps?
The Scottish Technical Standards do not consider anything other than a staircase to be an adequate means of escape. In addition there may be a requirement for emeregency escape windows, however that would be suplementary and obviously wouldn't apply beyond normal turntable access limits.

One of my colleagues says it might be 7.5m now, but I'm not away to check published notes immediately.

Anyway, the English regulations are different and always have been, hence caution is required when looking at the current case in hand.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:24 AM   #220
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Originally Posted by Architect View Post
......That in turn would require each doorway from that hallway into habitable accommodation (or places of special fire risk) to be fire doors. My immediate recollection is that the English regs would seek FD30s with self closers.
Correct.

Quote:
Of course that then raises issues around management - people busting self closers or wedging doors for convenience, replacement with non fire-rated units over time, and so on. We have dealt with this on local authority hostel projects, for example..........
This has always worried me. When you are relying on paper-and-talc (plasterboard) and human behaviour to keep buildings safe in a fire, I think you have inherent problems. All the multi-storey blocks I've done had lobbied escape stairs, so the in-flat requirements you describe didn't apply. Further, people are unlikely to have their front doors wedged open. However, wedged open lobby doors aren't impossible to envisage, and if two of them are wedged, bang goes your fire protection.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:25 AM   #221
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Nope.
Oh really?
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:26 AM   #222
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
Something like more than one stairwell, perhaps?
Where would you put the other stairwell, in a building like that?
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:32 AM   #223
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
Oh really?
Yes, really. I don't recognize your authority to shut down discussion here.

If you have something to contribute, other than "everybody shut up!", then contribute.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:36 AM   #224
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Yes, really. I don't recognize your authority to shut down discussion here.

If you have something to contribute, other than "everybody shut up!", then contribute.
MikeG is a registered architect with experience in tall buildings. He, and I, have explained to several posters here why the current fevered speculation unecumbered by near non-existent grasp of the technical issues is of little practical worth.

Now it is open to you to post a reasoned technical commentary on the fire and that is fair enough, but we've yet to see anything beyond big talk and second-hand soundbites from the media.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:36 AM   #225
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Yes, really.
Well, as far as the ARB (and RIBA) are concerned, I am actually an architect.

Quote:
I don't recognize your authority to shut down discussion here.
Trying to dampen down grossly ill-informed speculation isn't shutting down discussion.

Quote:
If you have something to contribute, other than "everybody shut up!", then contribute.
I really wasn't aware I needed your permission, but thanks anyway.
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Old 15th June 2017, 05:55 AM   #226
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An interesting read (as ever) at Damned Interesting - MGM Grand fire in Vegas in 1980, with fire code infringements galore:
https://www.damninteresting.com/fire-and-dice/

What is also interesting is how human nature showed the same approach in light of such a disaster, with many rushing to help.

The timing of posting was an eerie coincidence.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:05 AM   #227
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I've just heard that a Public Enquiry has been announced. BBC
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:08 AM   #228
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
I've just heard that a Public Enquiry has been announced. BBC
I would expect no less.

The question will be when, given the need for investigation to take place and possible need for testing of materials. I'd be amazed if it happens inside the year.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:13 AM   #229
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Originally Posted by Architect View Post
The Scottish Technical Standards do not consider anything other than a staircase to be an adequate means of escape. In addition there may be a requirement for emeregency escape windows, however that would be suplementary and obviously wouldn't apply beyond normal turntable access limits.

One of my colleagues says it might be 7.5m now, but I'm not away to check published notes immediately.

Anyway, the English regulations are different and always have been, hence caution is required when looking at the current case in hand.

Yeah, I know.

I was teasing, but only a little.

I've been involved in the construction of an awful lot of large buildings since I began in the building industry in the early 70s. Nearly all of them, as a matter of fact.

I've tried to recall any which were of a remotely comparable size which only had one stairwell, and I can't.

Learning that this building had only one was among the first tidbits of information which led me to wonder just how stringent the building and fires codes are in London compared to the equivalent U.S. regulations.

Even the ones from the 70s.

By way of example, a new lab/office building I was on in 2000 abutted an existing one, and was designed to share one of its existing stairwells. We had to gut the existing stairs and install new ones to accommodate substantial differences in floor elevations between the two buildings.

Before we could begin we also had to build a new, code compliant stair on the exterior of the existing building at a location close to the stairwell we were going to demo, even though that existing building had two other stairwells in reasonably close proximity, all because they missed the code requirement for access to two egresses within a certain distance by a matter of a dozen yards or so.

The demo/rebuild of the existing stair was scheduled to take four to six weeks. Building a code compliant temporary exterior stair, including converting the windows that opened onto it into code compliant egresses took at least that long.

And that building wasn't even a high-rise. The stairwell we demo'd only went up six floors, counting the basement.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:15 AM   #230
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There'll be a Fire Report, fairly rapidly, I suspect. It guess it likely that there will be assessment of other towers before the PE even meets using just the evidence from the Fire Report. Some PEs go nowhere, slowly. Others change things forever.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:18 AM   #231
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Now there's an interesting legal debate to be had there.

Because legislation cannot work retrospectively, and the extant buildings were consented under a statutory instrument, subsequent changes in the Regs cannot be applied saving for if there are major alterations (for example occupant capacity).

BUT

There is a general duty of care on the building owners to take adequate measures to protect life and limb. This might reasonably include upgraded safety arrangements, for example, although this might involve an engineered solution or alternatives to a second means of escape. Likewise the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations place a more general burden to consider the welfare of occupants and building users. These apply to both the owner and the design team. I find it unconvicing that nothing will have been done to address these, but the question will be what and whether adequate.

As regards secondary means of escape, all I can say is that it is one of a number of areas where I consider the Scottish technical standards to be at a more appropriate level than our southern cousins.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:21 AM   #232
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
Y.....Learning that this building had only one was among the first tidbits of information which led me to wonder just how stringent the building and fires codes are in London compared to the equivalent U.S. regulations.........
They are based on fundamentally different principles. In the US, to my understanding, the onus is on getting people out and getting the fire out. Alarms and sprinklers, and so on, and categorised by some as an "active" approach. Here, the emphasis is on containing the fire in compartments. Preventing its spread, enabling an orderly egress, in a so-called "passive" approach. Far fewer false alarms, far less risk of flooding the building in error, and so on. The PE will no doubt examine whether the fundamental approach here is flawed.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:25 AM   #233
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Originally Posted by Architect View Post
.......As regards secondary means of escape, all I can say is that it is one of a number of areas where I consider the Scottish technical standards to be at a more appropriate level than our southern cousins.
I've only done one project in Scotland, an earth bermed semi-underground house in the Orkneys. I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was by how different the regulations*, and the regulatory regime in general, was. I have to say, though, how clearly written they were, which made life much easier for someone unfamiliar with them.

*I know they're not called that.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:28 AM   #234
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
I've only done one project in Scotland, an earth bermed semi-underground house in the Orkneys. I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was by how different the regulations*, and the regulatory regime in general, was. I have to say, though, how clearly written they were, which made life much easier for someone unfamiliar with them.

*I know they're not called that.
"The Technical Standards".

When I started work in England, I designed all escape stairs in concrete. A colleague made light of this on the basis that, as the building would be evacuated within 3-5 minutes, there was no requirement for long term fire resistance.

I had to explain that they were incombustible to allow the Fire Brigade to safely re-enter and fight the fire.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:36 AM   #235
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Originally Posted by Architect View Post
"The Technical Standards".

When I started work in England, I designed all escape stairs in concrete. A colleague made light of this on the basis that, as the building would be evacuated within 3-5 minutes, there was no requirement for long term fire resistance.

I had to explain that they were incombustible to allow the Fire Brigade to safely re-enter and fight the fire.
Essentially you were designing in protected firefighting stairs where they weren't necessarily called for.........albeit you didn't say whether or not they led to a Firefighting Lobby. Wise, I'd say. Some landlords, constantly measuring public space: private space ratios, wouldn't agree!
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:37 AM   #236
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I have a drawing to finish...... I'm pulling the plug on the internet until I get it done!!
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:43 AM   #237
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
Correct.



This has always worried me. When you are relying on paper-and-talc (plasterboard) and human behaviour to keep buildings safe in a fire, I think you have inherent problems.

<snip>

Drywall (AKA Sheetrock™) partitions are routinely designed to provide fire-rated dividers. One layer of 1'2" drywall on each side of a standard 3 1/2" stud wall is rated for 30 minutes of fire resistance. If it is 5/8" it is rated for 60 minutes. Longer ratings can be easily achieved by adding additional layers or using drywall systems already thickened for the purpose. Gypsum doesn't catch fire easily.

A more important element of fire-rating is that the partition go from floor to structure above and be sealed against smoke and fire penetration around the partition itself. Also often done with gypsum drywall mud.

Where the difference tends to arise is the location of the wall itself. Corridor walls and stairwell/elevator shafts are generally designed with a higher rating. Corridors usually at least 60 minutes, shafts 90 minutes to 2 hours is typical, at least here in the U.S. Easily achieved with additional layers of the same drywall.

Human behavior is a different issue. For example; doors on egress routes which have been blocked or locked from the inside have been the cause of an awful lot of needless deaths. It's hard to design around that.

But drywall isn't part of the problem.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:50 AM   #238
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The use of two laters of broken bond 12.5mm plasterboard will be used here to provide 30 or 60 minutes fire protection, and is carried continuously across the relevant fabric in order to prevent bridging at cavities.

For higher standards, British Gypsum have a virtual monopoly and at one major project last year we liberally used their fire protection board as well.

In my experience part of the problem is services penetrations and I am not a believer in intumescent back boxes. Usually, if space and finance permits, we form the double sheeted wall adn then frame out a further single layer on timber battens to accommodate wiring, plumbing, and so on. This obviously also helps in terms of acoustics.

Some idiot on television the other day was whittering on about burnt-through plastic soil pipes as a transmission route. We use intumescent collars or fire protected ducts for these.
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Old 15th June 2017, 06:55 AM   #239
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Where would you put the other stairwell, in a building like that?

They designed it that way, which would be why finding a place for a second stairwell is a problem.

If it had been designed with two stairwells there wouldn't be a problem finding a place to put it.

Developers don't like additional stairwells because they add sq. footage without increasing occupancy. This in spite of the fact that the additional marginal cost isn't very significant in relation to the income expected from upscale residency.

(That was even in the Parliamentary Report linked to upthread.)

Building and fire code regulations can mandate that a design have a minimum number of accessible egresses greater than one, all within a certain distance of any occupancy access, and generally specified to be a certain minimum distance apart from each other.

That's the way it is handled in the U.S.
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Old 15th June 2017, 07:01 AM   #240
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
Building and fire code regulations can mandate that a design have a minimum number of accessible egresses greater than one, all within a certain distance of any occupancy access, and generally specified to be a certain minimum distance apart from each other.

That's the way it is handled in the U.S.
The Scottish technical standards assess number of escape routes based on:

1. Use category

2. Occupancy (based on standardised maximum rates)

3. Height of storey (or depth, in the case of basements)

In addition there are technical requirements on:

4. The divergence between escape routes in order for them to be considered as "seperate".

5. Travel distance to a place of safety (which may not be the same as the escape route)

6. Minimum width of exit routes and doorways

7. Aggregate total width of final exit doors.

8. Emeregency lighting pursuant to same.

My recollection is that the English approach is similar but less onerous.

To be honest, I jsut designed everything to the Scottish standards when I worked there on the basis I knew it surpassed the local requirement and was usually cost-neutral, give-or-take.
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