Modern societies legislate in such a way that risks arising from the construction and use of buildings are reasonably limited. New requirements, including functionality, security, fire protection and respect for the environment, have been progressively added to the traditionally regulated structural safety and habitability aspects. It is, in short, that not-specialized building users would see their individual and collective rights protected by the legislature, lacking enough information and not be able to decide for themselves on the level of risk they want or can accept.
Safety in case of fire is, today, one of the aspects that determines the design of buildings. Compartmentation, the arrangement of stairways and exits, the control of the flow of people or the accessibility of emergency services, force many constraints to be considered from the outset in the architectonic project.
The commitment to safety in the built environment, additionally, must go a step further than the strict compliance with the minimum prescriptive codes which, based on previous experience, impose a series of concrete measures. It is to understand the problem as an interaction of the three agents involved: the physics of fire, building design and user characteristics.
The physical phenomenon of fire, well known, is characterized in buildings by the condition of the spaces, which are mainly closed enclosures. The temperature and smoke, that in outdoor conditions are dissipated, concentrate on them and fire desperately seeks the oxygen needed to survive.
The possibilities available today for building design are greater than ever. Advances in materials science, the efficiency of the machines and the current assessment and calculation models allow the erection of buildings of enormous height, articulate gigantic atriums or make habitable underground spaces. Traditional typologies have given rise to an almost infinite range of building design possibilities that respond to new uses and ways of living.
The user completes this enigmatic puzzle in which the architect must be able to anticipate the possible scenario which can occur before a fire develops in a building. This user is also a person who departs from the traditional prototypes in a multicultural and non-discriminatory society.
This book aims to expose a minimum basis for understanding this complex and fascinating problem.