Of all the responsibilities facing the property industry, keeping people and property safe from the dangers of fire and smoke is among the greatest. Part science and technology, part psychology, part management and law, this field requires rigorous mastery of all aspects of emergency planning, fire protection engineering, security system design and building and fire codes, while also ensuring clients realise their architectural vision and operational goals while meeting their responsibilities.

Efficient Delivery: Connectivity, Collaboration & Diversity

WSP’s fire engineering community consists of 250 experts worldwide who work in close collaboration, sharing best practice and knowledge. Our mission is to deliver quality, innovation, and value to our clients by understanding how to integrate fire safety in the design process in relation to local conditions and codes.

Fire safety cannot be understood in isolation and the combination of our global expertise and relationship with other WSP disciplines brings additional dimensions to our work providing an efficient project delivery model and bring commercial benefits for clients. 

Across the globe we provide a broad range of services to deliver fire-safe buildings that are also functional and economical. These include the development of fire safety strategies, fire engineering design and specification, fire safety audits, fire risk assessments, computer simulation for fire dynamics, value engineering exercises and peer reviews. 

Our role is to apply scientific and engineering principles, rules and expert judgement based on our understanding of how fire impacts a building, the interaction with human behaviour and how to ensure safe access for fire fighters. We combine theoretical knowledge and practical application, using advanced computer modelling of fire, smoke, evacuation and structural response. In some regions, we also provide fire safety systems design and post-occupancy safety solutions.

Additional services include all the detailed designs of fire related systems, such as automatic sprinklers, hydrants, hose reels, smoke ventilation, Fire detection & alarm systems, gas suppression, etc.

Diverse Project Experience

We provide fire engineering services to some of the world’s leading architects, developers, engineers and planners, across an enormous diversity of projects. These range from cold room distribution centres for fresh produce to airports and convention centres with large populations. Our work also encompasses numerous government properties, commercial and residential developments, large retail schemes, airports, stations and other transport interchanges. 

Scale isn’t always the most challenging; WSP is highly regarded for its specialist technical skills in the delivery of highly sensitive, controlled environments for facilities such as laboratories and warehouses. For examples, The European Spallation Source, a multi-disciplinary research centre based on the world’s most powerful neutron source and one of the largest science and technology infrastructure projects being built today, is a very complex development with offices, conference areas, industrial sections and a long tunnel – all requiring very different fire and risk strategies. In addition, it’s also a nuclear facility. We’ve also carried out smoke and fire modelling, structural analysis and evacuation modelling, integrating many different software. 

WSP’s presence and involvement throughout the African continent and our collaboration with African focussed clients has also given us the experience needed to make fire engineered solution work in the African context, to allow them to be robust and economical, while still making sure that life safety is not compromised.

Interaction with Designers and the Planning Authorities 

Given that fire engineers are responsible for the fire safety strategy of a project, our work informs the whole design team on fire safety matters. It provides design guidance to architects, advises the building services engineers on what systems are required, such as smoke ventilation, fire dampers, fire detection, smoke alarms, emergency lighting and sprinkler systems, fire wall construction, fire doors, and provides vital information to structural engineers on how long a structure must be protected and how that is achieved.

The fire strategy is also a key document used by authorities to base their decision on for approving the safety aspects of a building. One of the most important aspects of our work is to liaise with building authorities as a scheme develops to discuss fire safety aspects, demonstrate that the strategy is safe in different scenarios and eventually gain approval for a fire-safe building that also meets its aesthetic, functional and commercial objectives.

WSP prides itself in maintaining good relationships with the local authorities, sharing knowledge from our collective experience and working together to deliver projects that are compliant, safe and on time. In this way, we are changing and maintaining the high level of standard and consistency in the fire engineering practice in each local area.

A Tailored Discipline Which Encourages Creative Design

Fire engineering is a customisable discipline in which, while the science is universal, the approach depends on the type of building. The risks are different on every project. In addition, fire engineering allows clients and architects to realise their creative design aspirations and to incorporate unique features, while still meeting the intent of regulations. 

Interpreting Code and Performance-based Design 

Fire precaution measures can be a large investment in any project due to the capital cost but also due to the potential loss of an efficient building design, such as floor space or staircases. It is also however, one of the most important investments that can be made in order to protect people and property from the dangers of fire. Combining theoretical knowledge with practical application, WSP is able to deliver optimal, performance-based designs.

The construction industry worldwide is subject to strict legislation governing fire safety. One of our tasks is to help building owners to understand and interpret the complex codes which vary from country to country and from sector to sector. In healthcare, for example, a project may have to comply with up to three different sets of codes.

For many projects, particularly non-standard developments, which may be large and complex and with high occupancy levels, standard code requirements may be inadequate, or may present obstacles with respect to a project’s vision, cost or function. Through the application of performance-based design, we can scientifically demonstrate that alternative solutions will achieve the same performance objectives as the code by calculating the building’s behaviour under realistic fire scenarios. This can add significant value to a project. 

Our innovative, cost-saving fire engineering techniques allow for significant reduction in certain fire safety requirements, such as reduction in smoke vents in warehouse roofs, reduction in number and width of staircases in tall buildings and extended travel distances within buildings, resulting in significant cost savings.

Keeping-up with Changing Environments

As buildings are required to be more flexible and reflect potential changes in use, innovative fire designs must be adaptable. Research into such designs is a significant part of fire engineering as well as new codes, materials and rapidly evolving technologies. WSP has paired up with universities to research topics such as fire retardant and sustainable materials, fire models for the urban built environment, new fire suppression technologies and lift evacuation strategies. Wayne Bretherton, Director of Property and Buildings ANZ at WSP comments that "modern materials can have unintended consequences. In terms of fire when a material comes to market there needs to be a proper assessment of how it is developed and used”, highlighting the critical role research plays in ensuring we design futuristic and safe fire engineering solutions for our communities. WSP’s role in such research is to bring industry experience and act as a link between the academics and industry.