Fire Literacy in Structural Engineering

Session: Track G: An Update on Fire Safety & Life Safety Design Award, Part 1

Cristian MalukProject image

Cristian Maluk
Technical Director, Semper Fire Engineering

What are the key aspects of structural engineering when considering the effects of fire? In the past decades, we have seen a growth in the number of fire incidents that have resulted in catastrophic structural collapse. While it is true that buildings are not falling from the sky with each fire, when it does happen, it is never for reasons that we would have predicted or expected based on the design or engineering of that structure .

In tall building construction, we continue to push the envelope on structural design (e.g., diagrid structures) and material selection (e.g., very high strength concrete, mass timber), without truly re-thinking how these advances challenge the fundamentals on which we base our structural fire engineering design. Such considerations include expectations on how a building structure should respond, how to justify the structure will be safe in the event of a fire, and the status-quo in structural fire engineering and what needs to change.

From looking more closely at the issues at hand, Fire and Structural Engineers can gain confidence that they can design structures to endure the bearing of a fire in a building.