Analysis of Sprinkler Failures in Listed Heritage Buildings

Sprinkler systems are common in commercial and industrial buildings. In cultural heritage buildings, there are sometimes concerns about their use. The unintentional activation can damage paper documents or other artifacts that must be protected by moisture. Thus, the study of sprinkler reliability in such kind of building is important to develop a more effective strategy of protection against fire. The paper “Analysis of Sprinkler Failures in Listed Heritage Buildings – Analysis of unintended activations of water based extinguishing systems in Norwegian heritage buildings February 2006” has been written by Geir Jensen, Arvid Reitan and John Ivar Utstrandf for the Riksantikvaren (The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage – RNDCH) and has been presented during the Cost C17 Action (Fire Loss to Built Heritage). It can be downloaded by this post:

Riksvantikvaren Analysis of Sprinkler Failures in Listed Heritage Buildings

Inert Air Venting for Protection of Heritage

cowiA fire protection system useful for the purposes of cultural heritage buildings based on the use of oxygen depleted atmospheres is the Hypoxic Air. This system has been presented during the Cost C17 Action meetings. In particular, in the downloadable document “Inert_Air_Presentation_for_COST_C17_Ljubljana_May_2006”  (presented during the joint NFPA – Cost C17 action meeting, held in Ljubljana on May 2006), it is possible to find some of the more important information about this system. The presentation has been made by Geir Jensen (COWI AS, Norway) and Jan Holmberg Department (Building Sciences, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden).


Fire is a constant threat to cultural heritage

Fire has always been a threat to cultural historic valuable buildings and surroundings.

The level of loss is unacceptable, yet most of us instinctively believe that this will not happen to us and, consequently we make, at best, half-hearted attempts to deal with the issue. It is, quite simply, too difficult for many to imagine how easily an accident can happen, and the magnitude of the resulting damage, even when we succeed in preventing the fire from spreading.

Most property owners believe that as long as they comply with current legislation, their buildings will be sufficiently protected. But this is not the case. The primary aim of most current legislation is to save life, not to save buildings. That said, emerging new laws are starting to broaden their remit and improve the standards to some degree. Continue reading “Fire is a constant threat to cultural heritage”

Ursulinenhof fire (Linz, Austria)

uDate: June 3rd, 2009, early afternoon

Building: built in 1679, used as cultural provincial center, many cultural and artistic artifacts

Cause: maintenance works at the underground level (angle grinder being used)

Damages: roof structures, inner rooms, up to five millions euros – no injuries reported – 18 months to be restored

Other: Firefighters evacuated paintings and other artifacts. Passer-by (or workers) reported the fire, probably no sprinkler or fire detection system active at the moment of the fire.

Petruzzelli theater reopening (Bari, Italy)

Petruzzelli Theater fire

On October 27th, 1991, the historical theater “Petruzzelli” in Bari (Italy) has been destroyed by an arson that left only the masonry shell. The original theater was opened on February 1903, with 404 seats.

On October 5th, 2009, the theater reopened. The total costs of reconstruction works after the fire, that occurred during refurbishment works, are around 50 million euros.

COST Action C17: Built Heritage: Fire Loss to Historic Buildings

cost c17 action booklet publications fire loss to built heritage

Cost Action C17 – Fire loss to historic buildings – has been an important activity on fire safety of historical and cultural buildings developed with EU funds that ended its activity in 2006. The intention of the Action was to address the significant physical and cultural loss of Europe’s built heritage to the damaging effects of fire.

Cost Action C17 (financed by the European Science Foundation under the European project of Cooperation in the field of science and technology program) has been active in the years 2002-2006 and has focused its  work on:

  • establishing a well-documented survey of up-to-date technical expertise to assist in influencing future developments in fire protection technology for use in historic buildings
  • defining an appropriate range of passive and active technical equipment countermeasures
  • considering alternative approaches to assist in stemming current loss levels
  • organising a series of conferences and/or workshops to develop thinking for effective risk assessment techniques and risk mapping using insurance company and other data
  • promoting findings and benefits of relevant risk assessment methodologies and property management support
  • effecting know-how dissemination through publishing proceedings and recommendations

Continue reading “COST Action C17: Built Heritage: Fire Loss to Historic Buildings”

FSE and heritage buildings

Fire Safety Engineering is the most powerful tool for assessing fire risk in heritage, historical or cultural buildings. Using techniques of performance based approach to solve the problems of protecting cultural and historical buildings from fire at the moment it’s the only possible way that allows to match safety needs with conservation issues.

Current prescriptive approach, infact, does not allow to address to the extremely various problems that safety consultants have to face in protecting from fire.

Currently, there aren’t many studies about the use of Fire Safety Engineering in cultural or heritage buildings protection. Are worth to be cited the Cost C 17 Action “Fire Loss to Built Heritage”, an activity funded by the European Science Foundation which ended its work in 2006 (whose paper are widely published in this site) and the activity of NFPA, which has published and keep updated two important standards: 909 (Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties – Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship) and 914 (Code for Fire Protection in Historic Structures). Continue reading “FSE and heritage buildings”