This article provides an overview of the activities of the European Expert Network on Fire Safety Engineering. The Expert Network was set up in 2019 by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), within the framework of the activities on European standards and policies for the construction sector carried out by Unit E.4 (“Safety and Security of Buildings”) of the JRC’s Directorate on Space, Security and Migration. The Expert Network has wide representation, and includes experts from the relevant Technical Committees (TCs) of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO): namely: ISO/TC 92 - Fire safety; CEN/TC 127 - Fire safety in buildings; and CEN/TC 250 - Structural Eurocodes. The Expert Network also includes fire safety experts from the construction industry, academia, research institutions and representatives of firefighters.
The Fire Safety Engineering Expert Network held its first meeting at the JRC in Ispra, Italy, on 12-13 November 2019. The meeting aimed to share views and to make proposals for advancing the development of a fire safety engineering approach, to be incorporated in the fire safety regulations of the EU Member States. At the meeting, the experts discussed the possibility to have a future European standard or standards, incorporating fire engineering principles, in a manner analogous to the Eurocodes.
The Eurocodes are ten state-of-the-art EU-wide European standards (EN) for the design of buildings and other construction works, which were developed by CEN at the request of the European Commission (see web-link below). The ten Eurocodes, covering various subjects related to construction, are further divided into 58 “Parts” addressing specific aspects of each subject. The Eurocodes provide common rules to design safe and sustainable buildings, but offer flexibility in national implementation, as the safety level remains a choice of the EU Member State through “nationally determined parameters”. At the Expert Network meeting it was agreed that it is feasible to have a European Fire Safety Engineering framework standard, having synergies with the on-going work by the related ISO and CEN Technical Committees, and based on countries’ experience in fire safety engineering.
Assessment of the state of implementation of fire safety engineering in the EU Member States, and the needs for standardization, will be based on an enquiry planned for 2020. The enquiry will also address issues related to the guidance and training needs on fire engineering at the EU and national levels. The results of the enquiry will be analysed in a JRC Technical Report, planned for publishing in late 2020.
The work on fire safety of the JRC’s Unit E.4 builds upon past activities, training events and publications related to structural fire design and fire safety in buildings. This includes JRC Technical Reports on the needs for improved fire protection in buildings, and JRC European training events and a manual with worked examples on the structural fire design using the Eurocodes. The first meeting of the Fire Safety Engineering Expert Network proved to be a fruitful and dynamic event, with many interesting discussions taking place, and the Work Plan until the second meeting - to be held during 2020 - being set.
The Fire Safety Engineering Expert Network also supports the Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP) initiative, created in 2017 by DG GROW (the European Commission’s department responsible for EU policy on the single market, industry, entrepreneurship and small businesses) following discussions by the European Parliament (see web-links below). The FIEP aims to share best practices and lessons learned between EU Member States and relevant stakeholders in the area of fire safety. The FIEP addresses five areas for cooperation, each led by a specific project team, including one - led by the JRC - on the use of fire engineering principles for setting regulatory requirements. At the project team’s first meeting, planned to take place during 2020, the Fire Safety Engineering Expert Network will provide input and share its views.
Silvia Dimova, Adamantia Athanasopoulou, and Luisa Sousa
European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
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