Fire Resilience: an opportunity to minimise building fires’ impacts

Jun 11, 2020 | News, Sustainability

When it comes to fostering a sustainable future, the building sector has an important role to play and has embraced this responsibility by aiming to improve buildings’ energy-efficiency and decrease buildings’ negative consequences on the environment. To do so, green materials and technologies have been increasingly marketed. These new ways are a valuable contribution to increase the sustainability of our buildings. Yet, it is crucial also to ensure that the fire risks associated with these recent techniques are properly accounted for. Indeed, building fires can have substantial impacts on the three components of sustainability: the environment, the society and the economy. That’s why when building sustainable, it is essential to make sure fire safety is upheld, and the building is fire resilient.

To raise awareness of the potential impacts of building fires on sustainability, we decided to test the level of knowledge of the fire safety community when it comes to buildings’ sustainability and fire resilience. Through a series of polls on our social media platforms (from 2 June to 8 June 2020 (closed midnight). Total votes: 4 843), we found out that:

fire resilience definition results polls

POLL# 1: 34% of participants did not know what fire resilience is. Only 51% answered correctly stating that fire resilient is “the fact that a building can resist to, adapt to, recover from fire and get back to its essential function quickly and efficiently”.

POLL# 2: A majority of participants (73%) was aware that the potential environmental impacts of a building fire are: air pollution, soil pollution and groundwater pollution;

impacts of building fires on society results

POLL# 3: When it comes to the potential consequences of a building fire on society, 59% knew that both transports and schools might close down.

results polls impacts on economy

(POLL# 4) Finally, 70% were able to identify all the possible economic consequences of a building fire on their community, namely shops closing, job and financial losses, damages and repair costs.

The following infographics have been developed to give further information on the potential adverse impacts of building fires.

Potential impacts of building fires on the environment

show building fires impact on environment

Building fires can release effluents and byproducts[1] that contaminate the environment. These impact air quality because of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. They also pollute the soil, and their infiltration, as well as the contamination of firefighters’ runoff water, spoils water[2] sources underground. All these potential negative consequences of a building fire on the environment endanger people’s health and well-being[3].

Potential impacts of building fires on the society

illustration of the potential impacts of building fires on society

Due to the contamination and destruction, it can trigger, a building fire can cause disruptions to the community’s life. Transport connections can be interrupted, schools forced to close for a while[4] as well as essential public offices. In short, life can be significantly slowed down, which can bring a burden on citizens’ shoulders, having to find appropriate coping mechanisms.

Potential impacts of building fires on the economy

Illustration of the Potential impacts of building fires on the economy

When a building catches fire, it often implies sensible damages and repair costs. In the case of commercial buildings which might have to close business, it may also lead to important financial loss. In the worst cases, building fires can also trigger job loss[5].

Hence, if we want to foster a truly sustainable future and provide for people needs and well-being, it is essential to make sure our buildings are fire resilient. Fire resilience is the capacity of a building to resist to, adapt to and recover from a fire and resume to its essential functions in a timely and efficient fashion. Addressing fire resilience in our buildings will ensure we strengthen our buildings’ sustainability and work towards a truly sustainable future.

What role can you play in greening our future?

Are you willing to broaden and bolster the debate on buildings’ sustainability by including fire resilience? Then join us in the Sustainable Advisory Panel of the European Fire Safety Community by registering here.


[1] (Fischer E. C and Varma, A. H. « Environmental Impacts of Fire ». Structure magazine, 2016.)

[2] (McNamee, M. et al.” Research Roadmap: Environmental Impact of Fires in the Built Environment”. Fire Protection Research Foundation, 2020.)

[3] (Amon, F. and McNamee M. S. “Fire effluent contaminants, predictive models, and gap analysis”. SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, 2014.)

[4] Wade, P. et al. “The impact of school fires: a study of the wider economic and social impacts on schools and the local community”, National Foundation for Educational Research, 2007.

[5] Alberti, M. “Portugal’s wildfire that broke a community.” BBC, June 15, 2018.