NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 12

Dispatches

I N T E R N AT I O N A L

SAFETY
WORLDWIDE

WITH REPRESENTATION FROM NFPA, A GLOBAL
COALITION CREATES UNIVERSAL BUILDING FIRE
SAFETY PRINCIPLES THAT CAN BE APPLIED
ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD
By Angelo Verzoni
he strength, or even presence, of
codes and standards governing
building fire safety is inconsistent
around the world. Generally, in
more developed countries like the
United States, private organizations including
NFPA and the International Code Council (ICC)
drive the development of robust codes. In other
countries, though, building codes of any kind are
more or less nonexistent. According to research
from the World Bank Group, a staggering 80
percent of the built environment in developing
nations is constructed with no official land-use or
safety regulations.
With such a wide spectrum of regulatory cultures, not to mention differences in construction

T

BUILT SAFE
The United Nations
estimates that nearly
70 percent of the
world's population
will live in cities by
2050. With that
growth will come a
spike in demand for
new buildings.
A global consortium
of fire safety experts
formed in 2018
hopes to make these
projects safer, no
matter where in the
world they occur.

terminology, methods, and materials, is it possible
to create a list of best practices for creating firesafe buildings that can be applied anywhere in the
world?
That was the central question recently
addressed by members of the International Fire
Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition, a consortium
of representatives from more than 50 construction and building safety organizations around the
world, including NFPA. The answer, in short, was
"yes"-in January, an IFSS committee released
a first draft of its list of universally applicable
global fire safety principles. A final version of
the document is expected to be released this
summer.
Birgitte Messerschmidt, director of the Applied
Research division at NFPA and a member of the
24-person committee that hammered out the list,
said the group took a novel approach to framing
the problem: View the world without borders
and all of its people as a single group, then pretend you're an extraterrestrial.
"We said, 'If I were an alien landing on Earth
and I had to create a fire-safe building, what
would I need to know?'" said Messerschmidt. "It
sounds funny, but that's what we had to do as a
group of building fire safety experts: Try to imagine we know nothing."
Gary Strong, chair of the IFSS Coalition and
global buildings standards director at the Royal
Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in the
United Kingdom, said the coalition represents a
rare opportunity to look at global fire safety best
practices and incorporate that knowledge into
approaches that can hopefully improve building
safety worldwide. "Fire knows no geographical
or political boundaries," Strong said. "A fire is
a fire no matter what country it occurs in, so
why should there be a difference in the way we
design, construct, and manage infrastructure?"

'Back to Basics'
The creation of the IFSS Coalition dates back to
the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people
in London in June 2017. Poor building fire safety
practices, including the use of combustible exterior wall assemblies and a lack of automatic fire
sprinklers, contributed to the severity of the blaze,
which was the deadliest in modern British history.
(For more on the aftermath of the Grenfell fire,
see "Data Void" on page 52.) The incident sent
shockwaves through the global fire safety community. It also prompted several organizations in the
UK, including RICS, to consider formulating a list

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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

Contents
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover1
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover2
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 1
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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Contents
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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover3
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover4
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