What is a high-rise or high-risk building?

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When it comes to fire safety, two types of buildings need some extra attention: high-rise and high-risk buildings. What do these terms exactly mean? And what should you bear in mind to ensure optimum safety?

High-rise buildings

What is a high-rise building?

Height is an important factor in fire safety. The definition of what constitutes a high-rise building differs per European country. In Germany, the limit for high-rise buildings is 22 metres and above, in the UK it’s 18 metres and above, in Belgium it’s 25 metres and above etc. No matter what the exact limit is, it remains indisputable that risks increase when the height of a building is at a certain level.

Fire safety risks in high-rise buildings

Escaping from tall buildings is more complicated and takes more time compared to a single-family house with only one floor. Not only do high-rises have more inhabitants or people that work in them, normal houses also have more escape routes (windows, doors) and are therefore easier to escape when a fire occurs. 

Using combustible materials on a building that is, for instance, 15 metres tall and thus not generally recognised as a high-rise, greatly enlarges the risks in the event of a fire and can have a catastrophic outcome.

New regulations for fire safety

Often high-rise limits are based upon possibilities for fire fighters to reach the fire via ladders or other equipment. With the rapid changes in the building environment, these methods cannot always be applied and by this the limits are part of the debate in defining new regulations for fire safety.

Design out the risk in high-rise and high-risk buildings. Just to be sure.
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High-risk buildings

What is a high-risk building?

A high-risk building is a building where the impact of a fire can be catastrophic. Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, hotels, student housing: all of these and similar buildings fall under the definition of high-risk. These are buildings where a lot of people live, sleep, are in need of care and/or cannot escape quickly or easily in case of a fire emergency. The risks of losing lives due to a fire are high within this category of buildings. Also, the loss of property and the decreasing economic value of a high-risk building are aspects of attention here.

Future use of buildings

It is also important to keep in mind the future use of a building. A structure that today is not considered a high-risk building, could be one in ten years from now if the usage of it changes. For example, from an office building to an elderly care home.

Therefore, keeping in mind the lifetime safety of a building and its users is always the best way to go when dealing with fire safety. Using non-combustible materials is the only way to design out the potential dangers involved with current or future high-risk buildings.


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