As a consequence of several recent fires in high-rise buildings involving combustible exterior wall assemblies (façades), global enforcement authorities are revisiting their existing building inventories to assess the hazard posed by the exterior walls, the likelihood and consequence of a fire spreading over multiple stories of the building via the exterior walls and, therefore, the risk to life safety.
In early 2018, ARUP completed a research project for NFPA to develop and validate a risk assessment methodology and the freely available electronic tool EFFECT™ to assist Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) in assessing the risks of their high-rise and intermediate-height building inventory. The methodology involves: identification of key variables associated with the exterior walls and the building (e.g. façade materials and geometries, evacuation strategy, building fire protection systems, etc.); characterization of those variables in terms of risk or mitigation potential; and incorporation of them into an engineering-based risk model whose output will be a means for AHJs to prioritize mitigation.
A qualitative assessment approach to risk ranking is utilized, consisting of two steps: an initial screen and a further evaluation based on more detailed building information. This two-step approach recognizes the challenges facing AHJs including the variability in these systems as field installed, the lack of data/information on specific installations, and the orientation of the tool to users who may not have the full engineering capability to make these initial assessments.
Although EFFECT™ was developed as a tool to be used by AHJs the information contained in the comprehensive user’s guide is of value to any professional interested in Façade Fire Safety as it describes in detail the variables that impact the fire performance of facades. The user’s guide, the background report on the methodology and access to EFFECT™ can be found here.