Integrating Fire Safety into Modern Building Design


High densification of large urban areas has become an unavoidable trend. The advantages of densification are significant resulting in more sustainable cities. In parallel with densification comes complexity and optimization, both requiring a more sophisticated approach to building design. Drivers such as energy conservation, modular construction or optimized structural design have deserved major attention with encouraging innovation leading the way to zero energy consumption buildings, cost reduction and much reduced carbon footprints. In contrast, other areas have not received the same attention and instead of treating them as drivers, they are considered as constraints. The unintended consequences of innovation are leaving an unquantified “wake” on these so-called constraints. Fields like fire safety have become purely responsive to the challenges set by others and are still relying on quasi-obsolete building regulations to define what is possible and what is not. Fire Safety will be used as an example of this evolution and to explain how these constraints can be treated as design drivers that encourage more holistic innovation in complex buildings typical of highly densified urban areas. The fundamental understanding of building physics and their interaction with fire will be discussed to show the opportunities that emerge from a departure from the traditional responsive approach. An analysis of the “wake” left by innovation will serve as a means to demonstrate the value of incorporating all aspects of the building design in understanding potential weaknesses that inevitably get introduced into buildings when optimization is not done in an integrated manner.

About the Speaker

Professor José L. Torero is Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Queensland and Head of the School of Civil Engineering (2011-2016). He works in the field of Fire Safety Engineering where he specializes in the behaviour of fire in complex environments such as forests, tall buildings, novel architectures, tunnels, aircraft and spacecraft. He holds a BSc for the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (1989), and an MSc (1991) and PhD (1992) from the University of California, Berkeley. He received a Doctor Honoris Causa from Ghent University (Belgium) in 2016. José is a Chartered Engineer (UK), a Registered Professional Engineer in Queensland, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), the Royal Society of Edinburgh (UK), the Institution of Civil Engineers (UK) and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (USA). José joined The University of Queensland in 2012 following appointments as the Landolt & Cia Chair in Innovation for a Sustainable Future at Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne, BRE Trust/RAEng Professor of Fire Safety Engineering at The University of Edinburgh, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland and Charge de Recherche at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.