The way forward for better, smarter fire protection - Briab - Brand, Risk & Säkerhet


The way forward for better, smarter fire protection

It has long been established that the Swedish construction industry struggles with an impossible problem. What we build is too expensive, we don’t keep deadlines, and quality is lower than expected. For fire protection this is a serious challenge, because of a perception that it is expensive, makes production more difficult, and that the requirements and expectations that are specified are unclear and hard to achieve. But for all challenges, there are solutions. For the building industry, productivity increases have stagnated over the past 60 years. But today the technical preconditions are in place to turn things around and take a bold step towards the future – it’s time to take digitalization seriously.

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The U. K. is in the process of securing a golden thread of information for fire protection, with Building Information Modelling (BIM). It is the first country to demand deliverables in digital form, with processes in line with BIM. They also want to demand a traceable decision chain, in order to ensure accountability and transparency. The background is the Grenfell Tower fire, which was the largest and most serious residential fire in over a century in that country. In the subsequent Hackitt Report, the author concluded bluntly: the building regulation system and the control system have failed.

Fire protection throughout the entire life cycle

As we have stated in previous articles, fire protection is often forgotten. In between the disasters, we are easily lulled into a false sense of security. A single event can turn this all on its head, and cause society to question the entire system. The radical proposals of the British government are in many ways good and apply to buildings higher than 18 meters. For the design and the construction phases, gateway points are specified, to ensure that the safety requirements are met. Moving into the building management phase, a safety case is submitted, to ensure fire safety throughout the building’s lifetime. Fire protection will no longer be left to chance, and, in the unlikely event of an incident, we will be able to follow the decision processes, system choices and deviations, making it possible to attribute liability.

Read more: Building a Safer Future. Proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system

Traceable reality

To secure the golden thread of information in fire protection, the proposal is to digitally store information and data on fire protection. This thread of information should support BIM in an open format, so it is possible to trace that what is planned to be built, is actually built. This way, fire protection for materials and products can be secured, and changes over time can be immediately identified.

A suggestion is that the requirements for the golden thread of information include a key dataset which includes but is not limited to:

  • Building ID and location
  • Size and geometric data for the building
  • Building type and use
  • Age and dates of renovations and reconstructions
  • Fire protection data for the building’s critical protection systems, such as fire doors and sprinkler systems
  • Facade and construction data
  • Reports from gateway points from design and construction, and safety case reviews from the management phase
  • Current and previous dutyholders for fire protection

Of course, it is a concern that the Swedish and the U.K. systems have so many similarities. How do we secure good fire protection in the Swedish building industry, and how do we implement new technology? The strongest development in the industry is taking place through public-private partnerships. Vigorous efforts are required to remedy quality issues and construction defects, which cost more than SEK 100 billion annually, and this requires cultural change. For this we need effective tools that can provide the security we need, without increasing administration. In the U.K. the requirements come from state bodies; in Sweden the building industry has a golden opportunity to find its own way forward.

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BIM and digitalization of fire protection, focus on Briab

Since the research project on BIM and fire protection in 2017, Briab has worked intensively to develop the digital tools required to digitalize, streamline and communicate fire protection in new and better ways. To develop a smart tool and platform for fire protection, we started with existing work processes, we identified the weaknesses and challenges of the process, so we could create the possibility of better, more robust fire protection for the entire life cycle of a building. A lot of time and energy is lost through inefficient communication and slow exchange of communication. Project changes and revisions mean that we repeatedly have to redo almost identical work. We are all too familiar with these repetitive jobs and ongoing challenges – they have been part of our workday for almost 20 years.

Read more: How to make fire protection a part of the BIM process, Research report SBUF.

With the digital tools Briab is developing, we will be able to efficiently put the specification of requirements into a digital format, in line with current BIM processes. We will be able to exchange information with other disciplines’ models, and promptly identify the problems that we have to solve together. Collaboration is the absolute core. With smart fire protection information in digital format, we will be able to communicate in new and more efficient ways. As a horizontal discipline, we cannot continue to isolate ourselves.

We must engage, listen, and solve the fire protection issue more efficiently.


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