Attracting over 100 delegates, new independent networking group for the UK fire safety industry, Women Talking Fire hosted its first conference with the theme of ‘the future of fire.’
The conference took place in Leeds in late November and was hosted by fire engineer Jude Evans. Following an inspiring keynote from three-time national award-winning engineer, Mandy Youssef, delegates heard from Jess Oliver, Head of Building Safety at Catalyst, and by Hannah Eales, Partner and Barrister at Kingsley Napley LLP, who looked at new legislation, focusing on both building safety cases and potential legal pitfalls for fire safety professionals.
Senior Fire Engineer Mary Button and Dr Anne Templeton, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, focused their presentations on current research into human behaviour in fire. It was clear that recently published research on who and what is trusted in fire incidents can be of benefit to fire safety professionals working with residents of high-rise residential buildings.
A focus on materials
The conference culminated in a panel discussion looking at materials in fire and focusing on timber, steel and concrete. Jenny Burridge, Head of Structural Engineering at the Concrete Centre, gave a good explanation of how concrete reacts in fire and highlighted concrete’s inherent benefit in being non-combustible. She also set out the ways in which the concrete industry is making headway towards reducing embodied carbon in concrete by using different supplementary materials such as fly ash and Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag (GGBS).
Dr Mostafa Jafarian, Technical Director at Hydrock, highlighted the importance of connections and the need for their careful consideration. He stressed the primary need to consider a building’s structural stability above all other aspects, including non-structural fire safety details.
Mass timber construction
Referring to the Swiss Cheese model of accident causation, Cameron Creamer, Senior Fire Engineer at Arup, discussed mass timber construction and the importance of ensuring adequate layers of safety. He questioned whether the minimum prescriptive requirements are appropriate for mass timber construction or whether the complexities of a combustible structure require additional fire safety measures to be considered.
All three panel members concurred that the qualitative design review (or QDR) is an important part of the design process in identifying significant fire hazards, likelihood and consequences to ensure that an informed decision is made regarding the choice of structural material.