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January 30, 2015 -
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Green buildings often employ technologies such as photovoltaic arrays and vegetative roofs — and some may have a perception that these non-traditional systems lead to an increase in fire hazard. However, the truth is that fire safety lies in properly assessing and mitigating risk posed by any building system, whether traditional or not.
Two studies have helped lay a baseline for understanding how green buildings and fire safety can complement each other. The first is "Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings," published by the National Association of State Fire Marshalls in 2010. The study covers site selection and use, building envelope and design attributes, and building systems and alternative power sources. For example, providing using permeable material in place of asphalt can help with storm water management and heat island effect. But care must be taken in selecting materials that will still be able to support the weight of fire fighting equipment.
The second study, "Fire Safety Challenges of Green Buildings," was published in November 2012 as a joint effort of the National Fire Protection Association's Fire Protection Research Foundation and the Worchester Polytechnic Institute. The comprehensive study looks at dozens of strategies, products, and technologies commonly used in green buildings that may require additional mitigation measures for fire safety, and provides suggestions for mitigation measures.
Both reports can be downloaded for free at the following links:
Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings
Fire Safety Challenges of Green Buildings
To read more about the intersection of green buildings and fire safety, go here.