FIRE OFFICERS could become a fully integrated part of the engineering teams that design and construct tall buildings in Britain, according to recommendations by a government task force.
The call comes from the Building Design Assessment Group (BDAG), set up by the government to review the role of the fire service in tall building design following the 11 September attacks in New York.
BDAG was tasked with examining the 'interaction between building design and fire fighting procedures in very large, high rise and complex buildings, ' according to its terms of reference.
One BDAG adviser told NCE that that he expects building designers and contractors will be forced to collaborate closely with the fire service as part of the building process.
'We would like to work much closer with engineers and designers to understand how a building is put together so that we can then understand how it comes apart, ' said chief fire officer for Hereford & Worcester Fire Brigade David O'Dwyer.
He went to New York following the 11 September attacks as the senior representative of the UK Fire Service.
'If engineers can explain the structure to us, we can make justifiable decisions when we are fire fighting such as what columns we should concentrate on keeping cool to prevent exposure of steel, ' he said.
The thinking of the group closely mirrors that of the Building Performance Study published this week by the American Society of Civil Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency. It recommended that 'fire protection and structural engineering communities should increase their interaction in building design and construction.'
The report says one way of doing this would be to increase 'interdisciplinary training in structures and fire protection for both structural engineers and fire protection engineers'.
Greater collaboration would expand the fire service's role in tall building design, which is currently limited to helping local authority building control departments enforce the 1971 Fire Precaution Act 1971.
O'Dwyer said that the fire service wanted to make a much greater contribution to the design of fire resistant structures.
'Engineers should come to us and say 'this is the type of building we want to build - what do you think would be the potential problems if there is an explosion in it?' ' he said.
His plea is backed by the World Trade Center report.
'The structural fire protection, mechanical, architectural, blast, explosion, earthquake and wind engineering communities need to work together to develop guidance for vulnerability assessment, retrofit and the design of concrete and steel structures to reduce the probability of progressive collapse, ' it says.
O'Dwyer wants such procedures adopted in 'unique' buildings such as the Canary Wharf, NatWest and BT towers in London.
'There should be structured lines of communication so that in the event of an incident we have access to the designer and building owner to talk about how the structure is going to behave.
'Often, we don't know who to contact. The first time we meet these people doesn't have to be at the incident, ' he says.
O'Dwyer hoped that greater influence of the fire service on building design will lead to action on sprinklers. He is encouraged by the fact that the Department of Transport Local Government & the Regions recently confirmed that building regulations will be reviewed following the WTC attacks.