An emerging proposal to initiate an integrated approach to the established problems was offered to the 2nd COST Urban Civil Engineering Conference: The future of the city; New Quality for Life event in Bled, Slovenia in 2001 and
Follow-up activities resulted in the final Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) being formally agreed by the COST Office in Brussels. This document promoted the implementation of a European concerted research approach, ultimately designated as “COST Action C17 Built Heritage: Fire Loss to Historic Buildings”, which was formally inaugurated in Brussels in December 2002.
The agreed MoU identified four work-packages:
• Working Group 1: Data, loss statistics and evaluating risks.
• Working Group 2: Available and developing technology.
• Working Group 3: Cultural and financial value.
• Working Group 4: Property management strategies.
COST C17 had as its central objective the definition, at a European level, of the degree of loss to built heritage through the effects of fire, and the promotion of remedial actions and recommendations to combat these using minimal invasive techniques.
The Action also aimed to address a general lack of statistical information, and a common lack of understanding and appreciation of what measures are available and required.
It sought to provide good practice guidance on how to sensitively retrofit modern day fire protection equipment into historic fabric, and to develop related management expertise in dealing with this problem in historic premises.
The operational framework of the Action was developed to consider the special nature of the value of historic buildings, the economic aspects of cultural historic value, and the need for measures to minimise damage if a fire occurs. Specifically this required consideration of the:
• vulnerability of historic buildings to fire
• risk assessment methodologies
• protection of fabric and content
• prevention of fire and fire spread
• detection and suppression requirements
• training and management of staff
• insurance considerations
In pursuing these intentions, there was a need to integrate and coordinate the associated factors so that a common understanding of the issues might emerge.
To achieve meaningful results during the intended life-span of the programme, a strategic approach was adopted. This focused on:
• compiling statistical data on the extent of heritage at risk.
• promoting statistical research into the consequences and causes of fires – both major fires and more minor incidents (such as small fires to which the fire brigade are not called or false alarms) and their impact. Using risk assessment data gathered as a basis for discussion, a dialogue began to be established with insurance bodies to seek the development of insurance products more closely tailored to historic buildings.
• 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.
In analysing fire risks posed to historic buildings, the use of statistical data and lessons learned for managerial needs may be considered an important tool.
Why do we need these tools and what is the knowledge provided and what is the problem with it?
In analysing the trends of fire risks we have to consider, that most of the listed objects are in use (housing, residential, etc.). Statistical comparison will be more likely related to existing statistics on residential buildings.
Every building management needs clear indication about the priorities of building upgrading. As the existing data bank systems are national reports from several European countries there is no possibility comparing the categories used.
Although empirical data are poor overall, conclusions can be drawn. The main risks appear to be (covering 75% of all cases) providing useful help for building managers when prioritising their investment:
– hot building and maintenance works (often in the attic area)
– old electric wiring
– open fire provided by neglect, inhabitants, staff members (candles,
More information can be obtained from Cost C17 Action proceedings (WG4
Property Management Strategies).
The Final Report brochure of the Cost Action C17 may be downloaded from this post: COST Final Report Brochure
A presentation on fire protection system that can be used also 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).
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:
Water mist for fire protection is a relatively new technology with specific advantages to the built heritage. Many fixed installations are commissioned throughout Europe and many research activities are ongoing or being considered.
The standard making processes does not currently address heritage applications, but performance- based codes are favorable for introducing new water mist. The COST Action C17 WG here reports on the experience this far and presents basic knowledge about water mist for the heritage community. Challenges, implications and perspectives of the technology are outlined in order to ensure the best protection of the European heritage possible. A guide on how to accept or approve of mist systems in heritage is given in the white paper (dated July 2004) from Riksantikvaren – The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage (RNDCH).
COST Action C17 “Built Heritage: Fire Loss to Historic Buildings” has contributed to gather a wide variety of publications about fire safety and fire risk assessment of historic buildings. In the downloadble document Part4_Pages_267-280 (which is one of the parts of the final proceedings of the Action) it is possible to find some of the Cost C17 proceedings Associated Publications.