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  Preparing the Foundation for Risk-informed Fire Safety Design

Project Context – New Zealand has a performance-based building regulatory environment. A key element of demonstrating compliance with the Clause C Protection from Fire clauses of the New Zealand Building Code is C/VM2 Verification Method: Framework for Fire Safety Design. Since being first published in 2012, C/VM2 has been an important milestone for performance-based fire safety design in New Zealand. C/VM2 describes a deterministic procedure for demonstrating Code compliance but it is not truly risk-informed. In fire safety design, it is traditional to consider risk as a function of probability and consequences. In this context, the term ‘risk-informed’ relates to some form of quantification of the probability (i.e., likelihood) of a fire event occurring, as opposed to focusing solely on the consequences of fire events. To be risk-informed, C/VM2 would need to include uncertainty estimates for design inputs, and safety factors would need to be explicitly stated. 

New Zealand Fire Research Roadmap – in 2011 BRANZ published a Fire Research Roadmap which provided a summary of current and future fire research needs and activities in New Zealand. The publication of the roadmap was the culmination of an extensive consultation and engagement exercise with the key fire research stakeholders in New Zealand. 

Research Project – as the project title suggests, the current BRANZ-led project is a stepping stone towards what is hoped will be a more comprehensive programme of fire research that addresses risk-informed fire safety design. Specifically, this project will make a longer-term strategic contribution aimed at building a framework, based on the current C/VM2 but with data/distributions and guidance, to enable risk-informed fire safety design to be conducted. Previous collaborative research involving BRANZ and the University of Canterbury has developed a fire design tool called B-RISK, which is capable of supporting such a new framework for risk-informed fire safety design. The primary objective of the current project is to conduct a detailed review of the existing C/VM2 document and to identify opportunities for, and the overall feasibility of, a transition towards a risk-informed performance-based fire safety engineering. The secondary, broader objective of the project is to engage extensively with the fire research stakeholders in New Zealand to help identify the steps required to implement risk-informed performance-based fire safety engineering in New Zealand. 

Research question – the research question that this project poses is “what is the pathway towards achieving a risk-informed fire safety regulatory regime in New Zealand?” 

Project Team – the core BRANZ project team consists of the following people: 

  • Colleen Wade – research contributor
  • Kevin Frank – research contributor

 To ensure effective engagement with the fire research stakeholders in New Zealand, a Fire Research Stakeholder Group has been formed under the auspices of this project.

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