When designing facilities that do not fit within the prescribed fire codes, it’s crucial to hire a fire protection engineer early in the design process. Only fire protection engineers can develop solutions that are referred to as performance-based design (PBD) solutions. PBD fire solutions are flexible enough to accommodate any design. They can also save clients time and money on any design, but they need to be introduced early in the process. Unfortunately, an early introduction doesn’t always happen. Normally, fire protection engineers are brought in reactively to solve a design problem. That’s because MEP’s are often contracted to develop fire designs to code. When a building doesn’t fit with a prescribed fire code, architects and MEP firms often don’t realize it until it’s too late. Having missed the ball, they have to bring in a fire protection engineer to straighten everything out.

What Goes Wrong

When we are hired by a MEP firm in a bind, it’s because they rarely have a fire protection expert in-house. MEP’s will have someone good enough to be dangerous. So their in-house designer is good enough to do basic fire safety design, but they often miss a fire protection solution that can save their client’s money and prevent code problems. The MEP relies on their in-house person and partway through the design process, they realize more expertise is needed to implement a proper fire protection solution. Delays ensue. Clients lose money.

How Harrington Group Makes It Right

MEP’s can provide basic fire safety design, but they lack the ability to implement advanced fire safety solutions. At Harrington Group, we develop fire protection engineering solutions referred to as performance-based design (PBD) solutions. PBD solutions can be implemented in any type of building, even when the building design might conflict with fire codes. PBD solutions provide flexibility and save clients money all while preserving safety. But, if an MEP is late to bringing in a fire protection engineer, the fee is often 75% more than it would be if they were on-board from the beginning. The key to saving money is bringing in a fire protection engineer early in the process.

If an fire protection engineer is in the design process from the start, potential problems can be dealt with proactively. For example, Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) can bring an entire design process to a halt. To smooth out the design process, Harrington Group begins negotiations with local AHJ’s immediately. Code issues need to be identified immediately. Through proactively communicating with AHJ’s, performance criteria can be defined thereby reducing the impact of analysis time. The proactive approach ensures retroactive design risks are minimized. While we always provide a cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate the value of a fire engineered PBD solution, the later we are brought into the process, the lower the price benefit. If you are designing a new building or re-designing an old building that may experience a fire safety issue, you can save yourself time, money, and frustration by bringing in a fire protection engineer at the beginning.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.