By Michael Rothenborg
More and more high rise buildings are being constructed in the Nordic countries, but knowledge about fire safety engineering in tall structures has not kept pace with this development.
That was the main conclusion at a recent symposium in Copenhagen, arranged by The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
“The stakes are higher in tall buildings, and the Nordic countries still lack experience in fire safety engineering here,” said Michael Strömgren, Research Scientist at Research Institute of Sweden.
Director Rasmus Storgaard from the Danish Emergency Management Agency East agreed.
“There are no Danish standards for firefighter panels, fire elevators, risers, capacity… you name it,” he said. “Basically there are no obligatory rules for fire safety for buildings of over 45 meters. That is a real challenge – especially as firefighters are used to getting an overview of the fire situation from the ground. You can’t do that when you stand in front of a high rise building.”
Learn from other countries
Research Scientist Michael Strömgren pointed out that other countries have been building high rise for decades or even centuries.
“Part of the solution is to look to more experienced countries and learn from them”, he recommended.
One of those countries is the UK and Principal Fire Engineer Chris Taylor from Ramboll UK was one of the key speakers at the symposium.
Chris Taylor has comprehensive experience from numerous high rise projects in UK and other countries. He uses his knowledge to demonstrate the acceptability of schemes based on a sound theoretical knowledge of performance based fire engineering - being both innovative and pragmatic, within the context of value and best practice.
“Arguably the most important thing the Nordic countries can learn from our experience in the UK is to contain the fire and prevent fire spread,” he said. “If you do that efficiently, you can treat the fire like in a traditional building – and it’s easier to focus on the people who are at immediate risk.”
Involve fire engineers early on
All key speakers agreed that entrepreneurs should involve fire engineers at an early stage in the building process.
In Sweden there are plans to construct ten high rise buildings of over 100 meters; two of them will be higher than the current Nordic record holder, Turning Torso in Malmö. In Denmark, high-rise buildings are now being planned and built not only in Copenhagen and Aarhus, but also in smaller towns like Horsens, Silkeborg, Viborg, and Vejle.
The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is based in Chicago and has around 1,000 member companies worldwide. The symposium in Copenhagen was held at th engineering consultancy Moe on March 9.