Photo of skyline of Auckland

High Rise Seminar, Auckland, New Zealand

On 20th October 2015, BB7’s Ben Bradford attended a seminar organised by the Institution of Fire Engineers, New Zealand Branch on the subject of high rise fire safety design, and engineering. He was one of three international guest speakers in attendance.

A summary of the day is provided below

First up was New York City Fire Chief, John Buckheit who spoke about the challenges of fighting fire within high rise buildings. What resonated with me was that the fire safety problem is the same regardless of where a tall building is located in the world. Broadly, tall buildings often have multiple occupied floors and this can mean more people. More people can mean more property and more property can mean high fire loads.

Although the likelihood may be low, the consequence of more people in one place can increase the risk of multiple casualties. The Probability of fire moving upwards is a concern, fire-fighting becomes more challenging with height, the required safe egress time is likely to be higher and the time needed to reach those who need assistance is higher. What can differ from country to country are construction standards, building control, fire safety enforcement and fire service attendance.

John introduced a case study on a 40 story building in New York that had multiple occupancy types and a fire occurred on the 20th floor. The fire started in an apartment owned by a hoarder and an electrical fault was the cause. Sadly there was one fatality 10 floors above the floor of fire origin.

The second speaker was Melbourne Fire Brigades, David Youseff. David acknowledged that fire risk management was a much broader discipline that includes life, property, mission continuity and environmental considerations. David introduced a case study on the Dockland Fire that occurred in Melbourne. This fire started on the 2nd floor of a relatively new 17 storey residential building. Apparently between 400 – 700 people were evacuated and were standing out on the road. David highlighted the new and evolving impact of social media during emergency management. There was a social media buzz around the fire and considerable media interest.

The fire started on an unsprinklered balcony and spread to multiple floors. Many of the apartments had been sub-let and therefore the occupancy of this block was far greater than expected. Also many of the residents were intoxicated due to substance abuse. Apparently the cladding product was never approved and was falsely certified and now this case is in court.

Angela Chen and Etienne Hermouet of New Zealand Fire Service gave a presentation about International Code Comparison around the world. I then spoke about managing fire risk in tall buildings.

James Boyes of WSP presented on High Rise Evacuation and the use of Pathfinder modelling software and finally Daryn Glasgow of BECA spoke about super tall buildings and BECA’s experience in the Asia Pacific Region.

I ended the day with a tour of New Zealand, Fire Service HQ in Auckland and I was fortunate to have another tour of the Fire Station in Gisborne, New Zealand.

All in all it was indeed a great trip and an amazing experience as I had not been to New Zealand before. I must say a big thank you to Trent Fearnley of the New Zealand Fire Service and incoming President of IFE New Zealand that hosted me during my stay.

I’ll be flying out to New Zealand again in 2016, and I am looking forward to further collaboration between IFE London Branch and IFE New Zealand Branch.

Ben Bradford
Founder and Managing Director, BB7