From the Technical Director
SFPE Completes First Engineering Standard
By Morgan J. Hurley, P.E., FSFPE | Fire Protection Engineering
In December, 2010, the Society of Fire
Protection Engineers completed its first engineering standard - the SFPE Engineering Standard on Calculating Fire Exposures to Structures.
Publication of this standard is a major milestone in a process that
began in June, 2001, when SFPE first considered whether to develop
A number of factors influenced the SFPE
board of directors' decision for SFPE to develop engineering
standards.The board's decision that SFPE should proceed with standards
development was primarily influenced by the positive recognition and
visibility that has accompanied SFPE's development of engineering
SFPE began developing engineering guides in 1995. Since then, 11
guides have been published. Each of these guides has advanced the fire
protection engineering profession and further solidified SFPE's position
as the worldwide leader of the fire protection engineering profession.
However, many aspects of fire protection
engineering are governed by codes and standards, and guides are not
suitable for reference in most codes and standards due to the permissive
language in which guides are written. Standards, on the other hand,
would be suitable for reference.
SFPE developed a set of standards
development procedures that meet the criteria of the American National
Standards Association. Fire exposures for performance-based design of
structures were selected as the topic for SFPE's first standard due to
increasing interest in the subject and the relative maturity of the
Performance-based design of structural
fire resistance entails three major steps: (1) determination of the fire
exposures to which a structure could be subjected, (2) determination of
the thermal response of the structure to the exposing fire, and (3)
prediction of the structural response to elevated temperatures. SFPE's
first standard covers the first of these steps.
SFPE envisions that the SFPE Engineering Standard on Calculating Fire Exposures to Structures will
form part of a suite of codes and standards that govern the
performance-based design of structural fire resistance. SFPE is also
developing a standard that will define how to conduct an analysis of the
thermal response of a building structure to the fire exposure. NFPA is
developing a standard (NFPA 557) that will provide the fire loads that
are to be used as input data into calculations of fire exposures. The
fire load directly affects the duration of the fire exposure.
SFPE's new standard is also consistent
with the optional, performance-based option in NFPA 5000. Requirements
for the performance-based design of structural fire resistance were
added in the 2009 edition of NFPA 5000 (section 188.8.131.52.2). These
requirements broadly define the fire exposures that should be used and
the intended performance. The SFPE Engineering Standard on Calculating Fire Exposures to Structures provides details as to how these fire exposures should be calculated.
The missing piece is a standard that
identifies how to predict the response of the structure at elevated
temperatures. This is a task that generally requires the expertise of
structural engineers, and SFPE hopes to work with the American Society
of Civil Engineers on developing such a standard.
The publication of SFPE's first
engineering standard is just one more step in SFPE's technical
excellence goal to establish SFPE as the primary source of fire
protection engineering information and advancements. However, more work
remains. SFPE will continue to develop engineering guides and standards
and seek formal reference in codes and standards where appropriate. For a
complete listing of SFPE's technical activities, see www.sfpe.org.