Talking abou the future of European Fire Safety Design - interview with Daniel Joyeux - Briab - Brand, Risk & Säkerhet


Talking about the future of European Fire Safety design - Interview with Daniel Joyeux

Recently Michael Strömgren, public affairs manager at Briab, attended a meeting on European standardization of Fire safety engineering at CEN in Brussels. The group convening is named TC 127 WG 8 and is headed by Daniel Joyeux. The group is focused on developing standards that enable the development of new and improved engineering methods for Fire safety design. Michael leads the work on procedures for review and control of such methods and grabbed the opportunity to get Daniel’s perspectives in this area, and what’s ahead in the future of European fire safety design.

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Michael: I’m sitting here with Daniel Joyeux, president of Efectis and also the chair of CEN TC 127 WG 8 the group on fire safety engineering within European standardization. And you also head the technical secretariat of the fire information exchange platform.

Daniel: Yes.

M: Any titles that I missed?

D: No I think that’s enough.

M: Is Efectis now the largest fire research and testing organization in Europe?

D: It should be, today, yes. With more than 230 employees working on fire safety.

M: And you have offices in how many countries?

D: We have offices and labs in six countries. France, Netherlands, UK, Turkey, Spain and Morocco.

M: That’s unmatched by any other Fire testing organization. So you have a very good view of the situation in Europe. Some countries are using fire safety engineering a lot and some are using more prescriptive ways of doing things?

D: Yes, it is very interesting to understand how each country is applying and managing fire safety engineering applications today.

M: Why do you think fire safety engineering is important for Europe?

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D: Europe shares a common interest in fire safety by having an internal European market for fire safety products. This is a product of the common European Construction Products Regulation that allows CE-marking of such products. With a common understanding of performance of construction products we can support companies to reach all countries in Europe. More and more we realized that we also have a distribution of services in Europe.

The specific design of the buildings need to be identified for each country. Each country is prescriptive in its own way. With fire safety engineering applications these difference in approaches are less and less visible. Harmonization of fire safety laws and regulations should be possible through fire safety engineering. The circulation of people is very important, so the assessment of fire safety of buildings in Europe is an important topic.

M: So, what you’re saying is essentially that we should be equally safe wherever we are in Europe?

D: Exactly.

M: Fire safety engineering is, in a way, going back to the scientific aspect of fire safety and assessing fire safety equally in all countries.

D: It’s clear that the construction process is more and more harmonized in Europe if we are looking at any type of buildings today. So the level of fire safety should be assessed in the same way.

M: What role do you think standardization has in relation to the quality of fire safety?

D: We observed during many years that the prescriptive rules have to be adapted to the construction and innovations. But in many cases the prescriptive regulations are only adapted to large fire events or tragedies. Fire safety engineering is also one of the topics that may match the fire performance to innovative building design. Nevertheless as we don’t have any reference for such innovation it is important that the standardization gives a minimum regulations to be applied for assessing new systems or new buildings. So the standardization may give a frame for guidance for fire safety design when they are outside the prescriptive conditions.

M: The fast development is challenging the traditional system. It’s hard to keep up with the standards when we have new products and innovation coming in.

D: Yes. Indeed, standardization is a long time harmonized process of well-known rules. The large work performed for European standardization in assessment of fire performance in the last 20 or 30 years has mainly dedicated to harmonization of existing national rules, corresponding to existing product types. Due to the fast implementation of innovation in construction, new rules are necessary in Europe for assessing their behavior and performance and their interaction with other traditional construction systems. Fire Safety Engineering is an answer.

M: Why do you think a European approach is needed instead of working with these issues on a national level like setting national standards?

D: We need to understand the practices of each country and the cultural differences when applying fire safety engineering. Dealing with that at a European level is a way to grow in a quicker way in the experience from the other countries. This is a really important way to work harmonized practices. We cannot remain with our own way of understanding noticing the constructions may come from everywhere in Europe so practices has to be adapted for that.


M: We are sitting here in the CEN headquarters in Brussels and we’re soon starting the WG 8 meeting which is the group for fire safety engineering within the European standardization. You’re leading WG 8. What is the most important thing for WG8 to work with in the coming years?

D: During these last two years we’ve worked hard to understand each other to have the same language on the table and that has not been easy. Now as we have a rather good view of what’s going on in the different countries, the next step is proposing some practical standards. Our starting point is the method that has been developed within the ISO TC 92 . Nevertheless on the European level we need to harmonize the practical method from ISO. In that case I would also relate this WG 8 work to FIEP, i.e. The Fire Information Exchange Platform. FIEP is an initiative from the European commission that was created after the Grenfell Tower Fire and FIEP strives to increase the information exchange on fire safety within Europe.

In 2002 there were analytics for the benefits of fire safety engineering in Europe with different initiatives. A few were proposed from Europe in that way. The FIEP is really a new initiative in order to exchange practices between member states to develop fire safety further. It also provides information from a national point of view to the rest of Europe. As we observed in the Grenfell Tower Fire, this was of a completely different scale compared to other severe fires in Europe. The Grenfell Tower is a warning signal. It is very important that there is now a change within Europe to improve feedback mechanism so that Europe may learn from national experiences.

M: We could really learn a lot from each other. We have different experiences in fire safety practices and fire safety engineering. It is quite evident in WG 8 where we had lengthy discussions and sometimes it is hard to agree because we have such different approaches and perspectives.

D: Yes, fire safety strategy may be different but as said the language and terminologies are also a barrier. Nevertheless, European buildings are built in the same way. The WG8 mission is effectively hard but we are moving step by step.

M: We now have three newly established work items, of which two are preliminary. We have the review and control procedures which I will lead. We have the definitions and we’re agreeing on terminology and we’re gathering information on the practices of the European countries. And starting the work to define a model process to improve the quality of fire safety.

D: Yes the definitions are absolutely necessary if we want to ensure that we have exactly the same terminology. We observe that it has to be reviewed on the European level including common criteria and statistics. The updated BENEFEU report is summarizing all the surveys that have been done regarding European fire safety practices. It is important to know the changes compared to situations recorded in 2002. With more European included in the survey we may gain a new understanding.

Review and control is an important area. Fire safety engineering is more and more open to many countries. For some of them it is a very new practice and we absolutely need some quality control. For this work item we’ll propose some work methods to the member states in order to they can choose to apply it within their own countries.

M: We will also have benefits from the terminology having common definitions. The defining process has been very necessary. It is important to speak the same language.

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D: Change control and quality assurance in prescriptive fire safety design is easier than control in fire safety engineering design situations where often the authorities are not so well informed on this subject, which adds complexity.  That’s why we absolutely need some clear guidance for the member states.

M: Thank you very much for joining us for this interview.

D: Thank you again.

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