Before a historic building fire protection retrofitting can take place, an assessment must be performed on the building. A Historic Building Preservation Plan or Historic Structures Report should be used as the framework for this assessment if they have already been completed.
The ultimate purpose of the historic building fire safety assessment is to determine how a building performs during a fire. In addition, the assessment will help define any deficiencies in fire safety systems and determine how to account for and correct these deficiencies in order to ensure fire safety and historic building preservation.
One of the most important things to think about during the fire safety assessment is that building and life safety codes are guidelines, nor prescriptions—they should be taken into consideration, but they should be adapted to your specific situation. In fact, following codes too strictly may result in the destruction of highly significant features and should be avoided through the creative and flexible application of the codes.
An alternative approach to codes and standards is an evaluation of buildings based on a systems approach, with building and life safety codes used as benchmarks in determining building performance during a fire. This entails conducting a thorough investigation and objective evaluation of the entire property, including stairs, doors, corridors, construction materials, fire sources, existing fire safety equipment, operational support systems, and the occupancy as part of the total system relative to overall fire safety. The result is a logical and reliable determination as to whether equivalent or alternative protection exists for any or all conditions.
During the assessment, the site, as well as any individual zones and features within the building will be examined by a historic preservation specialist. Factors that will be evaluated include:
All of these will help determine the building’s historical significance and historic character. Next, the individual building zones will be evaluated based on:
Finally, specific building features will be assessed to determine their significance according to their uniqueness, the materials used, the type of detailing, and the condition of the features.
The result of this evaluation is a determination of the level of significance of the building along with its individual zones and features. Any items deemed highly significant require a creative and flexible approach to fire safety retrofitting in order to preserve this significance.
Kauffman Co. fire protection professionals have the skills and expertise to install and maintain fire protection systems in historic buildings. To retrofit a historic building in Houston, TX, call Kauffman Co. today.
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