The Power Of The Architectural Design: Fire Safety

I’ve just wrote an article related to the high rise fire safety in Romania under the Building in Romania Category on my company website.

Actually the starting point was not the concern regarding spreading the word on construction industry in my country, but a Linkedin discussion with other architects regarding the safety in the high rise buildings.

Fire Safety: Architecture and Building Requirements in Romania
The initiator of the conversation is a lady architect that can’t stand the tall buildings. Her intuition tells her that is something wrong with tall buildings and a disclaimer should put near the entrances.

We, the architects love to emphasize the role of the design in our society. We think we can fix anything with our design: safety issues – need a better design…. world peace? we can design a building to…

This discussion showed me that we are not the same.

The design stated a set of rules to apply in the case of tall buildings: how to protect the evacuation spaces, how to prevent the spread of fire and smoke in buildings etc. The rules are redundant, pointing in the same direction, to preserve the life of the occupants, to limit the damages, to ease the access of the fire fighters and so on. Good rules. Not perfect, but the design experience makes them better and better every day as both good and unfortunate situations led to more and more conformation tips and obligations, to a more and more responsibility of the design.

The architecture is not an art. The art rarely can harm people, poor design leads often to injuries and death, financial loss and performance gaps. The fire safety is maybe the most visible aspect of the importance of proper design, where horrible scenarios can be overcome only by a conscience follow of regulations and by design conscience. So the architecture should be used as the most powerful tool to solve problems, to anticipate bad scenarios and to act against their fatality.

The architects can’t be activists in the fight against high density cities or climate change because this is not our role. I don’t deny the right of every architect to be environmental conscious but the fight about the society history should not be our flag. We should keep solve the design problems, problems that affect all over the life aspects. The world hunger cannot be solved trough architectural details, but trough powerful political decision.  The same case is the world peace, right?

We can’t go on and on to the root of all evil trying to correct it for two main reasons:

  1. architecture can’t help there
  2. the rest of the population will continue to build tall constructions with or without our help. The reason is that these kind of buildings just use better the land and the need of people to be more and more dense is related to the ease of the cooperation and the spread of the wealth, not by aesthetics.

So we should help them build better and better tall buildings freeing this way space near the cities for green environments, right? The psychological adverse reactions to the high density of our societies are not necessary a question of design even that design can help.

I wrote in an older article about the way Roman architects built beautiful buildings in the ancient Rome. But it was not a breakthrough of the architecture, but one of civic sense. The Roman Forum or the Athens’ Agora were not built because architects had brilliant ideas, but because the people used them for public meeting and for public debates of the wealth of the city. They did not built the basilicas because the architects invented the justice, but the legal justice system needed proper spaces to function.

The architectural activism in the field of environmental issues or society issues or climate change is not a proper action. It is like architects invented Jessus to design churches. You need the religion first to design the cathedrals! A beautiful cathedral for an atheist society means nothing, has no purpose.

We can find solutions, we can be highly innovative even but we have to wait for the public demand of our action. We should anyway do our best to solve more current problems as the fire danger in high rise architecture being a help and not a barrier in the way of the brave firefighters all over the world!

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