A new guide co-published by Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) and the International Code Council (ICC) identifies critical fire safety challenges unique to very tall buildings. Engineering Guide: Fire Safety for Very Tall Buildings examines how these special challenges can be addressed worldwide through an integrated performance-based design.

"Our new Engineering Guide was written in response to an increase in the global design and construction of very tall buildings," said Morgan Hurley, SFPE technical director. "Building codes in some countries may not contemplate all aspects of fire safety in very tall buildings—some of which approach a half mile, or 800 meters, in elevation. Buildings that are hundreds of meters tall pose challenges far different from those in average-sized tall buildings."

The guide emphasizes the importance of taking an integrated approach to the design of fire safety in tall buildings based on expected fire performance. This integrated approach looks beyond compliance with codes and standards, and considers how the height of the structure impacts fire safety and how various fire safety systems complement each other to achieve fire safety goals. These systems include smoke control, fire suppression, building evacuation, structural fire resistance, and fire fighter access.

“Professionals involved in the design and construction of very tall buildings will now have a performance-based guide to address multiple fire safety issues consistently,” said Hamid Naderi, ICC senior vice president of product development. “A committee of 30 private and public sector experts authored the guide and share their most recent knowledge, experience, and research findings related to safety in very tall buildings.”

The Engineering Guide: Fire Safety for Very Tall Buildings recommends performing a fire risk analysis to determine how to best address the fire safety challenges unique to a specific building. Although fire hazards in very tall buildings are similar to those in shorter buildings, the consequences of a fire can be more severe given the large numbers of occupants, the inherent limitations in egress, and the sheer height of the structure. The risk analysis will identify which hazards should be addressed by the design, where the hazards may include accidental fires, fires following earthquakes, or terrorist threats.