Sustainable Design

Global Warming has become a widely used and popular phrase in the media and is commonly associated with increased emissions of greenhouse gases. While the problem of reducing emissions is multifaceted in its underlying root causes, the aim is to embrace a better stewardship of natural resources. This poses challenges and opportunities for the fire protection industry to achieve the required level of safety while maintaining minimum ecological footprint.

To this extent, so called ‘sustainable‘ design principles have been developed and incorporated in building design and construction. These guidelines not only cover a wide range of design and operation principles, but they also represent fire protection challenges not typically considered in a ‘Green Building‘ design process.

There are several ways where fire protection systems or fire/life safety code requirements maybe affected by a green building design; examples include the design of low-water (water mist or fog systems) or no-water consumption (dry chemical or clean agent) fire-suppression systems, fire department access, issues associated with using reclaimed water to supply fire suppression systems, use of atria and other means of providing natural lighting and subfloor ducting to facilitate low energy ventilation.

Some of the sustainable design challenges are:

As Green Building design principles have been developed only recently, there will be instances where prescriptive codes cannot always provide a clear guidance. In many of these ‘sustainable design‘ implementations, a performance-based design approach is applied as a method to meet the intent of the applicable codes.

A recurring question is how can a design team address these building fire/life safety concerns and satisfy local building and fire authorities in providing equivalency to prescriptive codes, while incorporating the desired sustainable design elements into the project?


Architects, developers, and builders face challenges of providing sustainable design elements while at the same time meeting building and fire code requirements. These challenges are further compounded by tight project schedules. Sustainable design building elements, materials or methods of construction may face questions and concerns from local building and fire authorities during the permit process. Design teams must demonstrate to local authorities how these innovative sustainable design elements comply with prescribed code requirements or comply with the intent of the code provisions, which are often referred to as code equivalencies.

Designers are confronted with the challenge of answering the following questions:

Prescriptive code compliance can be part of a sustainable design project as long as the design team begins to discuss these code compliance issues early in the design process. Collaborative efforts are required among all members of the project design team including the owner, the architect, mechanical designer, electrical designer, the structural engineer, the licensed fire protection engineer, the interior designer, the civil engineer and the landscape architect.


When the prescriptive code approach cannot be applied to a new and innovative design element, a performance-based design approach may be needed for certain sustainable design elements of the project. The performance-based design approach may be used to show local authorities that the design elements comply with the intent of the code provisions, fulfills its intended purpose, and is shown to be at least equivalent in quality, strength, fire resistance and safety

As a result the performance-based design approach demands more interaction with other design team disciplines. Regular meetings and good communication is building the foundation of this integrated design process. It should not come as a surprise that quick and cost effective issue resolution in these meetings will require knowledgeable fire protection engineering and experienced fire and building code representation. Often the team is asked to demonstrate that the proposed innovative designs meet the intent of the code by way of supporting data such as test reports as evidence to substantiate design alternatives in safeguarding public health and general welfare.


Our licensed (fire protection) engineers and highly skilled professionals will work as a part of an integrated design team on your Green Building project to deliver cost-effective fire protection solutions within rigorous time frames.



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