Why and How the Sustainable Building Community Should Embrace Fire Safety

B.C. Roberts, M.E. Webber, O.A. Ezekoye, December 2016 (Citation)


Sustainable building construction is one of the fastest-growing industries in the USA. Changes in materials, products, designs, and methodologies are occurring to accommodate this green progression. While these changes have energy and environmental benefits, questions have been raised about impacts on fire safety. There are two major reasons to consider the nexus of fire safety and sustainable design. First is a concern for the environment and how a building fire would cause environmental harm. It is possible that a single fire event can negate several, if not all, elements of green design. Second is a concern that sustainable design features will cause unintended increased fire risk or hazards. Sustainable design is a relatively new market with some unconventional materials, techniques, and features that have not yet been proven with time, which introduces risk of unintentional consequences. Moving forward, it would be valuable to integrate green design with fire safety such that they reinforce rather than undermine each other. This article seeks to examine the relationship between fire safety and sustainability in buildings, discuss the status of the fire and sustainability communities, and recommend avenues for development and implementation to promote fire-safe sustainable designs. Such avenues include incorporating greywater and rainwater reuse systems with fire sprinklers, fire alerts and controls in building automation systems, better safety mechanisms and designs for on-site energy production and storage, and less combustible and more resilient structural elements and insulation.


Roberts, B.C., Webber, M.E. & Ezekoye, O.A. Curr Sustainable Renewable Energy Rep (2016). doi:10.1007/s40518-016-0060-2