The Power Of The Architectural Design: Fire Safety

Architect Octavian Ungureanu / Architect’s Blog / The Power Of The Architectural Design: Fire Safety

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

Please also read: “The Constructions Quality Control System in Romania.

The starting point was not the concern regarding spreading the word on the construction industry in my country but a LinkedIn discussion with other architects regarding the safety of high-rise buildings.

Fire Safety: Architecture and Building Requirements in Romania

The initiator of the conversation is a lady architect who can’t stand the tall buildings. Her intuition tells her that there is something wrong with tall buildings and that a disclaimer should be put near the entrances.

We, the architects, love to emphasize the role of 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, limit the damages, ease the access of the firefighters, and so on. Good rules. They are not perfect, but the design experience makes them better and better every day as both good and unfortunate situations led to more and more conformity tips and obligations, to more and more responsibility for the design.

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

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 environmentally conscious, but the fight about society’s history should not be our flag. We should keep solving the design problems, problems that affect all over the life aspects. World hunger cannot be solved through architectural details but through powerful political decisions. 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 kinds of buildings just use the land better, and the need for people to be more and more dense is related to the ease of cooperation and the spread of wealth, not 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 necessarily a question of design, even if design can help.

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

Architectural activism in the field of environmental issues society issues, or climate change is not a proper action. It is like architects invented Jesus to design churches. You need the religion first to design the cathedrals! A beautiful cathedral for an atheist society means nothing and 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 do our best to solve more current problems as the fire danger in high-rise architecture is a help and not a barrier in the way of brave firefighters all over the world!