Fire Engineering for Healthcare
Assuring life-safety in complex healthcare environments.
From a fire and life safety perspective, healthcare facilities present many unique challenges in terms of their construction, systems and operation. Each facility is different and they are all extremely complex, with numerous non-standard spaces serving functions ranging from operating theatres to hospital wards, from diagnostics services to public areas. However, the greatest risk with healthcare relates to the occupants rather than the building, since many patients, including non-ambulant or mental health patients, the elderly or the very young, would be unable to help themselves in an emergency.
Supporting Cost and Operational Efficiency
We help healthcare providers to meet their responsibilities while achieving their operational and business objectives. As hospitals become increasingly sophisticated, standard fire code requirements may present obstacles with respect to the project vision, cost or function. Our fire engineers can propose alternative compliance solutions that are scientifically proven to provide an equivalent – or higher – level of protection, yet are less expensive to implement, allow for design flexibility and assure a level of safety appropriate to the unique demands of a healthcare facility. For example, we might advise the most efficient location for exit systems to reduce the need for fire separations or further protection measures.
We can also help unlock value by allowing design solutions that would not be possible under normal building codes. At Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow our partnership with the design team yielded an innovative ‘Y’ shape ward layout that minimised the external elevation for a 28-bed ward, while also achieving the correct walking distances for nursing staff, and optimised the clinical space while saving construction costs by reducing the number of stair cores required.
Challenges of a New Trend for Atria
Hospital building design has become more ambitious in recent years and now atria combined with increased retail and dining spaces are common-place. These typically sit centrally within healthcare facilities, adjacent to traditional spaces housing operating theatres and hospital wards, and therefore represent a greater risk of fire.
We are currently involved in a hospital in Texas, USA, with a three-storey atrium open on the first floor as well as to a second floor waiting area. Using CFD analysis, we calculated how the smoke exhaust system would need to work in this space, then collaborated with our MEP design team to program and design the system and controls, including fire alarm and sprinklers, and determined how it would coordinate with the other building systems.
Holistic Strategies for the Modern Healthcare Environment
Hospital fire and life safety engineering demands the highest level of expertise and knowledge to safeguard patients, staff and visitors, and to preserve vital life-saving equipment. With extensive expertise in developing holistic fire safety strategies bespoke to individual healthcare establishments across the globe, our fire engineers fully understand the operational needs of modern healthcare.
Our services include fire engineering design and specification, fire safety audits, fire risk assessments, value engineering exercises, and peer reviews. We combine theoretical knowledge with practical application, using advanced computer modelling of fire, smoke, evacuation and structural response. In some regions, we also provide fire safety systems design and post-occupancy safety solutions.