This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are used for visitor analysis, others are essential to making our site function properly and improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Click Accept to consent and dismiss this message or Deny to leave this website. Read our Privacy Statement for more.
Book Review: Performance-Based Fire Safety Design
Share |

Viewpoint Book Review: Performance-Based Fire Safety Design

By James P. Begley, P.E., FSFPE | Fire Protection Engineering

Performance-Based Fire Safety Design
– a recently released book by Morgan Hurley and Eric Rosenbaum from CRC Press and our very own SFPE – provides the reader with a thorough yet concise introduction to performance-based design (PBD). Compiled from fire protection engineering courses taught at the University of Maryland (UMD), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (SLO), the book can benefit both college students just beginning their careers and industry professionals in the midst of theirs alike. The authors suggest just as much in the preface in stating their two primary purposes for the book: as a textbook on PBD and a reference for PBD practitioners. It succeeds in both regards, while probably being most successful as a real-world reference. In either case, it serves as an excellent complement to the SFPE Engineering Guide to Performance-Based Fire Protection with actual implementation examples.

Subdivided into 12 chapters, Performance-Based Fire Safety Design takes the reader step-by-step through the analysis associated with PBD. It begins with an introduction to PBD – which notes the concept had its genesis in the 1970s – before outlining the design process. With enlightening examples of both the qualitative and quantitative kind, the text contributes additional depth to otherwise straightforward technical information, although more examples would certainly benefit the book when used as a textbook.

In terms of examples, they could benefit from additional support information. An early occurrence in the Hazard and Risk chapter showcases a seven-step hazard assessment methodology from Hurley and Bukowski; however, the solution only draws parallels to six of the steps (In fact, the book itself lists eight steps but inexplicably skips a missing Step 5). Regardless, the example would be even more effective if a parallel to all steps were provided in the solution. Similarly, a 12-step quantative fire risk assessment methodology outlined later in the same chapter would be well-served by a similar presentation with its associated example. But these are minor qualms since even the inclusion of these examples helps convey the practical application of the PBD concepts – a thoughtful method of presentation on the part of the authors.

Chapters include expanded discussions on detection and suppression design, smoke control and fire resistance – three basic tenets for fire protection engineering. Other chapters cover design fires and scenarios, fire testing and human behavior, while the book concludes with chapters detailing PBD documentation and concepts associated with the determination of uncertainty. The Fire Testing chapter is particularly beneficial as this type of information tends to be scattered and is an important area of understanding in the practical application of fire/life safety provisions that tends to be gleaned over in a large number of practicing engineers’ backgrounds. Any opportunity to communicate more about the basics of rudimentary fire tests is welcome.

Readers (both students and professionals) would most likely benefit the most by reading this book in conjunction with the SFPE guide from which it is heavily influenced. In fact, the process outlined in the SFPE Guide is recapped early on and referenced throughout. But the authors also draw other sources, including the PBD provisions of NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code (in the Design Fire Scenarios chapter), Klote and Milke’s seminal smoke control work and multiple chapters from the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering. In this regard, Performance-Based Fire Safety Design serves as a single-source, quick-reference compilation of PBD-related concepts while providing the user numerous opportunities for additional reading and research.

While Performance-Based Fire Safety Design is a primer on PBD, it can also be considered an introduction to fire protection engineering design in general. In fact, an industry novice should be able to complete the book with very little prior knowledge – a trait well-suited for its use as a textbook. And while strewn with engineering equations, a working knowledge of mathematics without an advanced degree should suffice in order to apply most of the information contained within.

A quick read weighing in at less than 200 pages, the book provides a variety of references for further reading while being a self-contained resource unto itself. An index furthers the book’s efficacy. For newcomers, Performance-Based Fire Safety Design can become an eventually dog-eared tome to build a library around; for veterans, a majority of the research and equations outlined should be familiar but one can never be reminded enough of the building blocks of fire protection upon which our industry is based. And the book accomplishes this in the context of lessons on PBD.

James P. Begley, P.E., FSFPE, is with TERPconsulting.

© SFPE® | All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy