Safety first

The CIBSE BSER&T journal is seeking paper abstracts for a special issue on fire safety, as honorary special issue editor Professor José Torero, of UCL, explains

The fire safety strategy of a building of any complexity is underpinned by building services. This covers multifaceted subjects, from smoke management systems and the proper design of façade systems, to practical matters such as compatibility between air handling ducts and sprinkler systems. In a ‘special issue’ publication, the CIBSE Building Services Engineering Research and Technology (BSER&T) journal plans to showcase the latest knowledge and developments in all areas related to building services as an underpinning element of the fire safety strategy.

The issue is looking for material that includes: performance-based design principles; smoke management; fire suppression; fire safety management; building façades as they pertain to fire safety; fire safety building regulations; and fire-safe design.

If you have research or practice that could form the basis of a peer-reviewed research paper or technical note, send an abstract of no more than 200 words, by midday on 22 October 2021, to 

BSER&T will contact you within three weeks of the submission closing date to let you know whether your paper is invited to be developed for the issue. Visit the BSER&T webpage for details on research paper and technical note formats, and requirements for written papers. 

Why produce a BSER&T special on fire safety now?
Fire safety is an aspect of building design and implementation that requires a high level of knowledge, and which has a major influence on building services, as well as many other areas of design. The major problems with building envelopes have revealed this influence and emphasise their complexity. Therefore, it is essential to review the science behind the interactions between building services and fire safety.

How does the industry ensure that buildings are safe and sustainable?
In tackling a problem as complex as fire safety, the industry ensures that buildings are safe and sustainable by means of high-quality design. This can only be achieved by true understanding of the technical issues and, so, these assurances can only come through an adequate provision of competency.  

Are fire safety systems too complex?
Fire safety is extremely complex, but it is not fire safety systems that are complex. The complexity comes through the relationship between the provisions for fire safety and other building components that have other functionalities. The attainment of goals for many other functionalities – such as energy-consumption reduction, constructability and cost – while guaranteeing the overall fire safety of a building is where the complexity lies.

How can fire safety systems be successfully integrated into building systems?
This can only be achieved by ensuring adequate provision of competent professionals who understand the interactions between the systems they are designing and the fire safety strategy.

How profound an impact will the Building Safety Bill have on improving fire safety?
The bill sets out objectives that, currently, we do not know how to achieve – in that sense, it could have a massive impact. It will, in principle, require new science, methods and competencies. The hope is that we recognise the challenge and address them head on, instead of covering our eyes and pretending nothing needs to change. This is where the value of publishing a special issue such as this one sits, helping us to show where there are scientific needs, and delivering paths to resolve these needs.

  • Professor José Torero is head of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at University College London (UCL)
  • Building Services Engineering Research & Technology (BSER&T) is one of the foremost international, peer-reviewed journals that publishes the highest-quality original research relevant to today’s built environment. Published in conjunction with CIBSE, this journal reports on the latest research, providing a guide to recent developments in the field. It covers the full range of energy and environmental services in buildings, including: heating; ventilation; air conditioning; refrigeration; building electrical services; building acoustics; water supply and sanitation; distribution and supply of air and water; vertical transport; buildings integrated renewables; ground source energy; building systems-related health, comfort and wellbeing; sustainable building systems; and urban heat island. BSER&T is available to members at the CIBSE Knowledge Portal.