Hospitality and retail buildings are deemed demanding in terms of fire protection and fire systems, but fire risk management and support company ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk says an inspection process needs to be done to ensure that buildings comply with the National Buildings Regulations Fire Safety Act No 103 of 1977 amended.
“A fire engineer is required to fill out the South African National Standards (SANS) Form 2 and SANS Form 4. Form 2 acknowledges that the building has been designed in accordance with the requirements of the Fire Safety Act and the fire engineer’s signing off on that indicates that everything has been designed correctly.”
He further explains that the SANS Form 4 states that the fire engineer has checked and verified during construction that the building has been erected in accordance with those design requirements.
The relevant fire department then requests that the SANS Form 4 be delivered to it before it conducts an inspection and issues the company a site-clearance certificate. Certain fire departments insist on original copies to combat fraud, other fire departments are less concerned.
Meanwhile, Van Niekerk highlights that there needs to be an understanding of the products or materials used in the construction of a building, an understanding of the application of the product or materials in a specific environment and the assurance that they perform in accordance with those specifications.
He points out that the architect, the structural engineer and the fire engineer should be “on the same page” about the material and construction methods being used.
Van Niekerk mentions that, in all industries, the installed fire-prevention equipment has to comply with rigorous standards.
The design of a fire prevention system is also extensive and involves various active elements, including fire-detection and -suppression elements, sprinklers, pumps and tanks, as well as passive elements such as compartmentalisation, fire doors, fire walls and smoke control. Installation of these elements at a large warehouse could cost between R5-million and R10-million, he adds.
Architects are increasingly designing buildings that prevent the spread of fire, while companies are also creating buildings that can control a fire by preventing it from spreading, as opposed to putting in a system that will control the fire by means of a water discharge system.
Moreover, Van Niekerk says architects are taking a proactive approach by consulting with fire engineers at the beginning of the building design phase regarding client requirements to create a budget estimate, should a fire occur in a client’s building. This will enable architects to design a safe, cost- effective building from a fire protection perspective, rather than being forced to install capital intensive equipment that could have been avoided.
The fire engineering design process ensures that a client is delivered a safe building that will protect its employees and guests, its equipment and inventory, as well as ensure business continuity.